On Your Marques…
As the battle of the Lotuses (Loti? I’ve never been sure about that) rumbles on, the question I’ve been asking myself is ‘why have Group Lotus suddenly become interested in the Team Lotus brand?’ After all, they’ve lost a case against Team Lotus Ventures before so what makes them think they can win this time and, more to the point, why do they want to? Is it simply a case of protecting their own interests as they claim, or are they simply drumming up PR ahead of the launch of their new car range – it seems similar to the clumsy ‘accidental’ email release to the press leaking information about the Evore along with other “new car(s) not yet announced.“. Or are Group Lotus perhaps making a move to join F1 in 2011?
It’s notable that Group Lotus have formed a technical partnership with ART Grand Prix to run in GP2 and GP3 and the next obvious step would be to move in to F1. Of course ART planned to do just that next year and were amongst the front-runners before withdrawing their bid. The cited reason was the state of the world economy but it’s interesting that technical partners are mentioned – was Group Lotus originally part of the F1 plan?
“ART Grand Prix had forged strong bonds with several technical and financial partners but with unfavourable economic conditions they could not gather the necessary guarantees to ensure the stability of the project in the long term.”
ART Grand Prix Press Release
Intriguingly, ART withdrew their entry on the 7th July while Group Lotus’ claim on the Team Lotus brand was filed just a week later on the 15th. Did ART in fact withdraw as buying an established team offered better prospects of being competitive?
The most obvious candidate would be Toro Rosso. Red Bull’s sister team has in some ways become surplus to requirements – it may provide somewhere for the main team to bring through new drivers but the inability to now simply use the same chassis as the main team has pushed up the costs. 2011 is liable to be even more expensive so it’s not hard to think that Dietrich Mateschitz would like to off-load the team. The market is not currently in his favour – look at the difficulty Honda and BMW had in finding a buyer – but ART / Lotus Group could fit the bill nicely. It’s also worth noting that Dany Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus, formerly worked for Red Bull and Ferrari and was closely tied to Mateschitz. Clearly a man with Formula 1 aspirations and rumour even has it that he hankered after Christian Horner’s job.
So have ART’s Formula 1 ambitions not gone away at all and if not, what value to them to claim ownership of the Team Lotus heritage?