It’s not that long ago that the thought of the team principles of Ferrari and McLaren standing side by side, sharing a microphone, live on TV would never have happened. Only three years ago, the two were involved in one of the most damaging scandals to hit the sport in recent years, the spygate saga. Now all is happy between the two teams, we regularly see Stefano Domenicali and Martin Whitmarsh talking to the UK TV audience, sharing a joke and getting along.
Now with all the talk coming out of the Monza paddock, we could be seeing the two warring factions over the Team Lotus name sitting around a table, instead of battling it out in court. Long term adversaries Tony Fernandez (Team Lotus) and Danny Bahar (Group Lotus) were spotted having a conversation over the Italian GP weekend, Renault team boss, Eric Boullier, said: “I just saw in the paddock that Dany Bahar was talking nicely with Tony Fernandes, so I guess there is a settlement that has been done.” He added, “We will see. Changing the name of the team/chassis can have some complications with sponsorship and obviously with TV money, so it is a matter we have to raise when we have all the elements in our hands.”
With Tony Fernandez owning his own car company now, the logical move for him is to name his team after Caterham Team Air Asia, same as his GP2 team. Fernandes said: “I always had a problem with ‘am I really Team Lotus?’ I always said that era was theirs, we were just bringing it back under new ownership. It was up to the fans whether they liked us or not.” He added, “I’ve always said that protecting the brand is paramount and it’s not me that started all this. I didn’t have a claim, they (Group Lotus) had a claim. And they lost that case. But I’ve always had the door open and it may be a win-win for everybody and we walk away. I also always said we wanted to be in the car business and I never hid that fact. And now we have Caterham.”
Although the two parties are now talking, I don’t expect any announcement over the deal until after the end of the season. The financial detail of the deal will be very complex. In relinquishing the Team Lotus name, Fernandez’s squad will lose vital revenue in prize money by effectively registering a new team. Could this lead to Fernandez/Bahar double act on the TV? It’s too early to tell, but it does look like we’ll all be spared another ugly exchange in the courts.