Tonight F1 fans are a little confused and a little concerned as they contemplate a 2011 season with four black and gold Lotus Renault cars on the track, two owned by the Enstone based Lotus Renault GP and two – in slightly different livery – owned by Norfolk based Team Lotus.
The Team Lotus entries have nothing to do with the Norfolk based Lotus Cars operation, which is a 25% shareholder in the Enstone based team.
The two different Black and Gold liveries – both tributes to the iconic JPS Lotus colours of the 1970s – are at large on the internet at the moment.
Lotus Renault GP’s livery (below) was issued this morning by the team along with its press statement announcing the deal, while a reader has sent what appears to be a scheme for next year’s T128 Lotus with car numbers 20 and 21 (above).
Group Lotus boss Danny Bahar, who now controls 25% of the Enstone based team (livery above), went on BBC Radio Norfolk today to talk about his plans for the company. He brushed off the confusion, saying that it suits him to have four Lotus cars on the grid as it doubles his brand exposure, he’s getting free advertising from Tony Fernandes’ team – but I’m not sure we should believe him on that.
This is an unworkable situation from a business point of view, which will cause difficulty for the sponsors of both teams and they will be pressing for a resolution.
“I have nothing against it,” said Bahar. “It’s not a problem for me, four are better than two. The controversy has been mainly pushed out by Media, it’s been dealt with by our shareholders together with 1 Malaysia Team.” (the Norfolk based team)
Although they haven’t commented on the name issue, there has been some Twitter activity from key Team Lotus personnel today on the colour scheme. Technical director Mike Gascoyne Tweeted that in an online poll of Lotus fans 77% wanted them to keep the green and yellow livery, just 15% fancy the black and gold, while 4% of Lotus fans want the Gold Leaf colours of Red and gold.
“Seems pretty conclusive” was Gascoyne’s verdict on the poll.
The two sides will face each other around a table tomorrow at the F1 commission meeting, which is attended by the team principals of all F1 teams, plus circuit owners, sponsors, tyre company, FIA and Bernie Ecclestone. No doubt there will be much talk about this issue. There will also be formal moves towards the 2013 engine formula with small capacity, turbo charged eco engines.
Bahar said that in terms of drivers to partner Robert Kubica, “Our preferred choice is Vitaly Petrov, but I hope that the team will be able to announce by the end of the year the final line up.”