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GP Week : Issue 131
F1 NEWS >> ACCORDING to sources, Team Lotus and Lotus Renault GP have come to an agreement over the long-running naming rights saga. F1 journalist Joe Saward reported the rumours earlier last week that Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes had acquired a stake in MAS, Malaysia’s national airline. “ We hear that the two Lotus parties have now reached an agreement and next season Team Lotus will become Team Caterham AirAsia and will remove the ACBC logos from the cars in the next few days,” Saward wrote. “ This will open the way for Renault F1 to change its name to Lotus of some kind and is the first step towards allowing the team to change the chassis name from Renault to Lotus.” While the news has yet to be confirmed, there is a certain logic to the rumour. Fernandes bought the Caterham car company in April 2011, and in June the Caterham name was added to the Team AirAsia GP2 team owned by the Malaysian businessman. Keeping all of his motorsports interests under a single banner makes life easier for sponsorship, branding, and fan awareness. By running Team Lotus in Formula One, Fernandes was inadvertently advertising a rival car manufacturer. Also over the course of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Finnish outlet Turun Sanomat reported and retracted the news that the Team Lotus logo would be removed from the team’s uniforms in time for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The team’s travelling outfits are set to change before Monza, but the Team Lotus logo will remain. Lotus and Lotus naming argument resolved? WITH no French drivers on the grid, no French teams, and no French Grand Prix, it is hardly surprising that French interest in Formula One is on the wane. France’s current dominance of the WRC has piqued the interest of the bulk of the country’s motorsport fans, who have swapped their four- wheeled allegiance. But the tide might be turning. Earlier this year it was announced that the French government was working to restore the French race to the Formula One calendar, and this week it emerged that junior Red Bull star Jean-Eric Vergne would drive for Toro Rosso in some Friday practice sessions later this season. Vergne is currently racing for Carlin in the Renault World Series, competing against former Tech 1 Racing team-mate and HRT driver Daniel Ricciardo. It is widely expected that his first Friday practice session will come after the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, which takes place at the same time as the Renault World Series season finale. Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost told BBC Sport that Vergne’s promotion to Friday driver did not mean there was a vacancy within the team for 2012. Ricciardo performed Friday duties for the Red Bull feeder team before taking up his HRT role, and Vergne might be expected to follow a similar path on his way into F1. “It is just the confirmation we give him the chance to learn some race tracks, to get some experience of an F1 car, to learn our team, do some works with press, marketing and get some knowledge of all the technical issues and topics that are coming up for an F1 driver,” Tost said. But there was a hint that current Toro Rosso drivers Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari – both of whom have been with the team since 2009 – do not have assured futures with the team. “After three years, you should know whether a driver has potential, has the chance to come to Red Bull or not,” said Tost. “ We will see at the end of the season. Theoretically we can continue with both drivers. But this is not a decision for today or the next few weeks.” It was announced on Saturday that Mark Webber had extended his Red Bull contract until the end of the 2012 season, meaning that there is no room for the junior boys in the senior team. 11