Lotus Screws Over… erm… Lotus…

Okay, this is confusing, so pay attention!

Group Lotus and Genii Capital, who now own the majority of the Renault F1 team, have joined forces to form the Lotus Renault GP Formula 1 Team.

Got that? Good.

But, what’s that I hear you say?  “What in the name of Sweet Dancing Jesus are you talking about? Surely there is already that Malaysian outfit that call themselves Lotus on the grid? You know, they hire that vastly over-rated bloke to design their cars and those two highly-regarded, but ultimately massively disappointing drivers to finish first of the B-grade F1 teams ?”

Well, yes, that’s right too. I said it was complicated…

Basically Group Lotus is the outfit that makes the road cars with Lotus badges on the nose and also owns Lotus Engineering and pretty much all the other companies that sprung from the little English concern that began in Colin Chapman’s startlingly big brain.  These days it is owned by Proton, the Malaysian car manufacturer that makes, well, nothing of great concern over here in New Zealand, but you may well remember it from more than a few years back when it it released the truly awful Mitsubishi-based Saga hatch that still rates as the worst car Oversteer has ever driven… Dear God, I still have nightmares about it…

Anyway, the name Team Lotus is another thing altogether, originally being a spin-off “sister company” of the original Lotus company, but eventually being discarded by the road car-concern following the death of Chapman and the sad, pathetic decline of the F1 team that followed. And that is the name that the decidedly average current F1 team has been running under since it managed to buy the rights off Certified-Formula-1-Legend James Hunt’s brother, David,  prior to the start of the last season.

Okay, let’s re-group here. Group Lotus makes the road cars and is owned by Malaysian manufacturer Proton and Team Lotus races the Formula 1 Cars and is owned by Maylasian airline billionaire Tony Fernandes, and they are completely different entities. And, just to make things interesting, they have been fighting like 12-year-old girls (ie: savagely, brutally and without remorse) over who actually has the right to use the coveted and historic Lotus name in Formula 1…

And now it seems that there may well be TWO Lotus F1 teams on the grid with the announcement that Group Lotus and Genii Capital – the finance company that now own the vast majority of the Renault F1 team, following the spectacular fall from grace of the factory team that included good ol’ Crazy Uncle Flavio Briatore ordering Nelson Piquet Jr to crash on a specific lap (rather than waiting for it to happen anyway…) and other such minor details – have basically decided “F**k Team Lotus” and have teamed up to field the Lotus Renault GP team in the 2011 season…

Yes, I know, it’s confusing, but that’s Formula 1… Here’s the full Lotus GP/Renault/Group Lotus press release:

Genii Capital and Group Lotus join forces in Lotus Renault GP – Lotus, the manufacturer, returns to Formula 1™


Genii Capital and Group Lotus plc today announced the creation of Lotus Renault GP, the successor to the Renault F1 Team that will contest the 2011 FIA Formula One™ World Championship. This exciting announcement is made in the context of a strategic alliance between the two companies that will provide Group Lotus with significant technological and commercial opportunities for its range of road cars.

Following the return of the Lotus name to Formula 1™ in 2010, under licence from Group Lotus, this historic announcement marks the complete return of the Lotus manufacturer to the sport, with the full backing of its parent company Proton. Group Lotus plc will become a major equity partner of Genii Capital in Lotus Renault GP, and the two parties have concluded a title sponsorship agreement that will run until the end of the 2017 season. With the continued support of Renault as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise, Lotus Renault GP enjoys a strong, stable platform for future success.

Gerard Lopez, Chairman of Renault F1 Team, commented: “We are delighted that we can now go public with the news that we will be racing as Lotus Renault GP in 2011. It is extremely exciting to begin a new era for the team in partnership with Group Lotus, and we will continue to enjoy a strong relationship with Renault over the coming seasons. It is a tribute to the excellent work this year by the team in Enstone that we have been able to attract both major sponsorship and new investment for a very bright future.”

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: “I can think of no better platform for automotive brand communications than motorsport and F1 is the very pinnacle of open-wheel racing. We’re well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1 and I’m delighted to be able to formally clarify our position once and for all: we are Lotus and we are back.”

The new partnership has been enabled by Renault selling its remaining shares in the team to Genii Capital. Group Lotus plc will subsequently become a major equity partner in Lotus Renault GP, which it will co-own with Genii Capital.

Renault will continue its strong support of the team with which it won the 2005 and 2006 world championships, as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise. Reflecting this technological support, Lotus Renault GP will continue to compete with the Renault chassis name and Renault will enjoy pre-eminent brand exposure on the livery.

For 2011, the Lotus Renault GP cars will race in a new interpretation of the iconic black and gold colours that were last used when Lotus and Renault joined forces in the 1980s. This livery, which has been on the drawing board for over two months in order to reinterpret its iconic graphic signature to suit modern media requirements, is sure to strike a powerful chord with the sport’s enthusiasts around the world.

The team scored a strong fifth-place finish in the 2010 constructors’ championship, which included three podium finishes for Robert Kubica. Next season, Lotus Renault GP is aiming to take another step forward which will see it competing regularly with the most prestigious names in Formula 1™.

Yep, that’s right, Group Lotus (ie: Proton) has a financial stake of some sort in what once was the Renault F1 team (but now is no longer at all…) and that means one of two things: it either explains why Group Lotus was so savagely opposed to Fernandes’ team racing under the Team Lotus name in F1: it clearly had plans of its own for that. Or these plans have simply developed out of spite – which, whatever you opinion on this, is simply a freakin’ awesome reason to start a Formula 1 team…

Whatever the reason,the most freakin’ awesome thing about it all is that the “latest” Lotus team will be racing in the classic Black and Gold “John Player Special-esque” livery that was present when the original Lotus F1 team cemented its place in sporting history in the ’70s. Whichever way it goes from here though, count on this: there will be only one team named Lotus on the grid next season, Oversteer bets his left testicle on it. And it more-than-likely won’t be the one owned by the Malaysian airline billionaire either…

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