Lotus F1 Losing Lotus Group Backing?

Courtesy Lotus F1 Team

Courtesy Lotus F1 Team

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The money woes besetting Group Lotus, which has been spreading its wings in all forms of major motor racing over the past two years, are spreading to the province of Formula One racing and Lotus F1 Team. The Lotus brand's recent history in F1 has been one involving legal battles, name changes and the customarily usurious fees of attorneys representing all sides of each story.

As 48 percent of Group Lotus' shares have recently been transferred from parent company Proton to a Malaysian concern called DRB-Hicom, there have been changes afoot with regard to the F1 team. This move has been culminated outside the purvey of Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar, who has been spending Group Lotus money like water - it's catching up to him rapidly.

Under the new agreement, the Lotus F1 Team's cars will continue to be painted the iconic black and gold branding of Lotus, benefiting from that association, and giving the car company worldwide exposure. The team name remains unchanged. What does change is the fact that no money is currently changing hands for said branding, with the agreement coming between Genii and Lotus/Proton - obviously behind closed doors and purportedly earlier in the year.

"Group Lotus and the Lotus F1 Team are brand partners," came the statement from Group Lotus. "The F1 team uses the strength of the Lotus name to promote themselves and, in return Group Lotus benefits from F1 exposure and the ambassadorship of its drivers. There is no longer a financial arrangement between Group Lotus and the Lotus F1 Team, but continued teamwork, brand alignment and shared goals. The team name 'Lotus' and indeed the chassis name, will continue unchanged."

Lotus F1 Team chairman Gerard Lopez is now having to run a team with little sponsorship, now that Bahar's money juggling tricks are showing signs of depletion. Still he said the team is "happy to carry the Lotus name as we believe it's a good name for F1. We funded the team last year and the year before; we would prefer to have sponsors up to the full amount, but if we have to fund it then we will fund it."

The question of home base to Group Lotus and Lotus F1 Team at Hethel is a big issue. The five new-car introductions announced by Bahar less than two years ago have been pretty well shelved, but with Lotus F1 Team's recently announced Microsoft signing there could be an opportunity for the team's ultimate survival, with or without Genii/Proton/DRB-Hicom or even Chinese backing.

But then what value is there of black-and-gold colors (originally for a cigarette brand) on an F1 car that has zero attachment to the technically-advanced team founded by one Colin Chapman? We'll have to find out.

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