Lotus F1 team boss torn over name change

London: Malaysian-owned Lotus Racing could have a completely new identity in Formula One next season although team principal Tony Fernandes says he wants to keep the Lotus name if he can.

What is certain is that the team, best of the three newcomers this year, will not be called Lotus Racing after a falling out with Malaysian carmaker Proton and their Lotus Group who had allowed them to use the name.

Fernandes had planned to switch to Team Lotus, the name used under founder Colin Chapman to win multiple titles in the 1960s and 1970s, but his rights are disputed by sportscar makers Lotus Group.

The matter is due to go to the London High Court some time next year and has been further complicated by reports that Lotus Group are likely to join the Renault team as title sponsors and investors.

Gerard Lopez, the Renault team chairman and major shareholder, said his Genii Capital had long-standing links outside Formula One with Lotus Group but would not comment on future plans.

"We are interested in Lotus as a car company. Is there something with the team to be done? We`ll see," he told Reuters.

Fernandes` outfit is also due to use Renault engines, which would lead to the messy situation of two rival Lotus Renault teams on the grid unless a deal is done between the sides.

Fernandes told Reuters after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the weekend that he was torn about how to proceed.

"I`ve received 2,800 emails in the last two hours from people all over the world saying please keep the Lotus name with you. It means nothing if it goes somewhere else," said Fernandes.

"Let`s see. But what we don`t want to be involved in is destroying the Lotus name.

"If we go to court, yes, we will win," he added. "But the brand will suffer, and I don`t want to be part of that brand being destroyed, I don`t want to drag it through the gutter.”

"We feel that we`ve done justice to the Lotus name. We want to keep it. We feel it`s ours. But we are also pragmatic human beings."

AirAsia airline entrepreneur Fernandes is expected to sell the Team Lotus name to Lotus Group but he said an alternative, albeit less likely, would be for him to acquire Lotus cars from Proton.

"If it was an option that was available to us, that`s feasible," he said.

Bureau Report

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