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GP Week : Issue 107
INTRIGUE surrounded Lotus Racing’s announcement over the weekend which confirmed the team would be powered by Renault engines next season. While possibly one of the worst-kept secrets in the paddock was at last confirmed, it now seems that the ongoing naming dispute between Lotus Racing, run by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, and Group Lotus, has taken a further twist. The team’s press release announcing the Renault deal made almost no mention of the name ‘Lotus Racing’, save for the e-mail address of press officer Tom Webb, and the team’s logo used for this season. Throughout, references to ‘the Anglo- Malaysian team,’‘this team’, or ‘our team’ were all used to refer to the outfit which loudly proclaimed its intention to run under the Team Lotus banner for next season, having purchased the name from David Hunt, at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix. It now appears that Group Lotus, with whom Fernandes has been in dispute over the Team Lotus name, are making their own steps to enter F1, buying into the Genii-owned Renault team. Proton, owners of Group Lotus, are attempting to re-establish the brand in the mould of Ferrari and use F1 as a marketing platform for their production car business. This is perhaps unsurprising given that the company is now headed up by ex-Ferrari brand chief and Red Bull number two Dany Bahar. Whether the potential buy-in would come as a result of purchasing Renault or Genii’s shares is not clear, but the former seems more likely with Renault rumoured to be keen to return to the status of engine supplier from 2011. That could pave the way for Proton to use the Lotus brand name as a title sponsor of the Renault cars, and possibly even be renamed as Lotus-Renault. Renault Sport president Bernard Rey also contributed to the debate in his announcement of the Lotus Racing deal, by failing to mention the team at all, instead saying: “Renault is delighted to announce an expanded agreement with Red Bull Racing and the arrival of a new customer, 1Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Ltd.” While there is a High Court lawsuit pending in London meant to resolve the dispute over the rights to use the Team Lotus name, according to reports from Malaysia that decision has already been taken at the highest level and Lotus Racing will not become Team Lotus in 2011. Therefore, the team currently known as Renault could therefore be known as Lotus- Renault or even Team Lotus for next season, and Lotus Racing may have to find a new identity. Fernandes has already established Team Air Asia to compete in GP2 next season, so maybe Air Asia F1 is about to land on the grid? However Fernandes, who was not in Brazil, challenged such speculation on Twitter: “Much said about our name. To [sic] many people reading to [sic] much into it. We are Lotus Racing this season. Next season we are still Lotus.” Renault confirms 1Malaysia deal Fernandes adamant his team will be called Lotus (whatever happens between Group Lotus and Renault) n Following Nico Hulkenberg’s maiden pole position, Sir Jackie Stewart says the 23-year-old’s F1 future is secure, and that the biggest danger now is that Williams ends up losing him. “I would be very surprised if he is not taken. The biggest chance he has now is of being grabbed by a more affluent team, not the risk of not having a drive. He is never going to be without a job”. Sir Jackie is an ambassador for Williams sponsor RBS. n Red Bull Racing’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey described the consructors’ championship crown as “not bad for a little team. It was obviously the aspiration [to win the championship] but I wasn’t so sure we could actually achieve it [when I joined]. Certainly the team didn’t have the infrastructure of the big ones. When I joined Williams, and then McLaren, I was very lucky the teams had the infrastructure and you could just go about designing the car. Here it’s been a bigger task, building everything up, getting the operation together and everybody in Milton Keynes has risen to that task fantastically.” n Eminem wowed F1 and rap fans at Sao Paulo’s Jockey Club on Friday, and he wasn’t the only hip hop star in town. His support act NERD were in the paddock and front-man Pharrell Williams, by now an F1 regular, was in the Lotus Racing pit. You would have thought hearing was quite important for a musician, but Pharrell refused ear defenders. When the car started up he jumped out of his pants. His bodyguard was not as protective as he should have been, knocking off Pharrell’s hat in his haste to get out of the way. Short Straights 10