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GP Week : Issue 149
The 2012 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix It’s the event everyone’s been waiting for. Don’t miss the biggest celebration of the year at the Bahrain International Circuit. It’s the passion that races throughout the nation. 20-21-22 APRIL 2012 TICKETS: +973 17 450000 / BAHRAINGP.COM Group Lotus made a good effort of diverting journalists’ attention away from Bahrain for a moment, when on Wednesday they distributed a press release designed to clarify their involvement with the Lotus F1 Team. It also served to defend reports that Group Lotus is going into administration. But all anyone could talk about was how Group Lotus hit back at criticism from Caterham owner Tony Fernandes and journalist Joe Saward. Many commentators described the press release, unlike the dry tomes most companies fire out, as “astonishing” and it quickly trended across the Twittersphere like wildfire. It was done in light-hearted terms, Lotus reproducing an image of CEO Dany Bahar photoshopped on Comical Ali’s body, addressing the media with the words “There are no problems at Lotus” . This humorous picture had originally been posted by automotive website Sniffpetrol.com and was cited by Lotus as an example of false rumours about the company that are doing the rounds. “Although it’s funny, [the image is] not accurate but then again, why let the facts get in the way of a good story? The inconvenient truth is – surprise, surprise – we have never said that there are no problems at Lotus,” read the statement. “The takeover of our parent company Proton by DRB-HICOM couldn’t have come at a worse time, but up until that point Proton was (and still remains) fully committed to our five year business plan to create jobs and to expand the factory and business. With the takeover process the funding has been restricted and DRB-HICOM is taking time to understand what to do with the business. At no point has DRB-HICOM indicated to Group Lotus that it intends to put the company into administration. “The simple fact is, and we haven’t denied this - Lotus is going through a very difficult phase at the moment.” It is in light of these financial restrictions that Group Lotus successfully renegotiated its contract with the Lotus F1 Team earlier this year which, as reported by GP WEEK last week, gives the sports car manufacturer all the PR and branding benefits it had before for no direct fee. Wednesday’s release cited Group Lotus’ continued commitment to the team and Formula One. “Group Lotus’ branding and marketing rights and subsequent activities remain unaffected by the new agreement until at least 2017.” It also revealed that Proton have loaned the Lotus F1 Team’s owners, Genii, £30 million repayable in three years. In order to secure the loan Genii used 100% of the F1 team’s assets as collateral. Proton retains the rights to purchase 10% of the F1 team. Another 10% share option will be activated if the team default on their loan obligations with Proton. Contrary to rumours, the release confirmed that Dany Bahar and Proton MD Dato’ Sri Syed remain in their positions. Rather candidly, it singled out Caterham boss Tony Fernandes as the source of these whispers. “Don’t take everything he tweets too seriously – perhaps he’s still frustrated about owning Caterham instead of Lotus and the fact that he fights HRT and Marussia instead of Mercedes and Ferrari in F1” . Sheesh. What is it about China? At least this year no one got a champagne flute in the neck. GROUP LOTUS CLARIFY THEIR F1 COMMITMENT ... ... and get a bit f ighty in the process 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS