An outcome is on the cards? No, not yet any way. During my (internet less) week away I have been devoid of all Formula 1 news and gossip so you could imagine my delight when Thursday came so I could catch up with AutoSport!
One story in particular caught my eye (which I will come to later) as it fits in quite perfectly with how I see this whole saga ending.
Assuming Group Lotus lose their appeal against their ‘victory’ in the High Court and Tony Fernandez is able to continue to use the Team Lotus name, things could get a little expensive for Group Lotus and chairman, Danny Bahar.
Tony Fernandez, to me has seemed to be two steps ahead of his rivals throughout this whole sorry affair. A merchandise infringement on Fernandez’s behalf lead to the initial revoking of the Lotus Racing licence, but the way he has conducted and positioned himself in the ensuing drama has left me with nothing but Admiration for him.
With Fernandez holding the ‘top trump’ card in being able to call their chassis Lotus, Danny Bahar and Group Lotus’s F1 ambitious plans are hanging by a thread. The Team Lotus name will now fetch a premium price, a price Group Lotus and Parent Company Proton if they want to see through on what would be a very expensive u-turn.
Rumours have been circulating for quite some time about Renaults (the Engine supplier) continued supply of their V8’s to the team that bare their name. Some sources have suggested that the team hasn’t got the budget to renew the deal. These Rumours grew stronger with last week’s announcement that Williams were to rekindle their infamous partnership with Renault that brought the pair so much success during the nineties.
The official word from Renault is that they have been looking to supply a fourth team, and although the FIA regulations stipulate any engine manufacturer can only supply three teams at any one time, the claim to have special dispensation to do so.
When these rumour first started, I joked that we could end up with a team called Lotus Renault Cosworth on the grid, as that seemed the only power option if Renault pulled the plug on the current deal. This is hardly the grand return to the sport that Danny Bahar had envisaged and the reason why he didn’t back Tony Fernandez in the first place.
Reading some quotes tonight (Thursday) from Cosworth, Mr. Bahar may have found the carrot he needs to dangle in front of Proton to back him further. Cosworth general manager Mark Gallagher told Autosport “There are several independent teams out there whose relationship with their current suppliers maybe have a question mark over them.” The USP for Proton/Group Lotus is Cosworths willingness to re-badge their engines, especially under the change to V6 power from 2014 “We have made no secret of the fact that we have ambitions to see a car manufacturers name aligned with us, we are agnostic about the Cosworth name being on our engine.”
Will the opportunity to have either a re-named Lotus or Proton engine be leverage enough to pay Tony Fernandez the considerable amount he would now be asking for the Team Lotus name?
Fernandez isn’t stupid, now he has purchased Caterham Cars, running under the Team Lotus Banner only helps to promote a now rival brand, especially since he plans to expand the range into models that will rival the likes of the Lotus Elise.
The chance to sell the name of the team at the ‘right’ price coupled with the opportunity to re-band his team under his own car companies name seems (to me) to be too good an opportunity to miss.
Danny Bahar has been bullish from the very first day he joined Group Lotus about returning the Lotus name to the sport, it would seem to have turned out to be more expensive than first thought but if Bahar can convince the Malaysian government backed Proton to further invest in his ambitious plans, he could have what he set out for.
And everyone’s happy?