No going back on Lotus name: Tony Fernandes
London: Team Lotus have abandoned plans to race in the same colours as Formula One rivals Lotus Renault next year although the name will remain the same, owner Tony Fernandes said on Saturday.
The Malaysian entrepreneur told Reuters by telephone from Monaco that it made no sense having four cars with the same black and gold livery, as would have been the case. But he added the sport could live with two Lotus teams.
"Whether they copied us or we copied them that`s beside the point now," said Fernandes, whose team will also be powered by Renault engines. "The point is what makes sense."
"Having two Lotus brands on the grid I think is no issue. Having four black cars looking the same I think is silly and one has to relent."
"We`re not childish and emotional and saying `Oh no, we`ve got to be black and gold`. We`re pragmatic."
The cars will likely be green with a dash of yellow, reflecting the Lotus colours and a scheme that the boss said also accorded with the sport`s attempts to take on a more environmentally friendly or `greener` image.
Sportscar maker Lotus Group, owned by Malaysian car company Proton, announced this week a partnership with former champions Renault F1 and said their cars would be black and gold.
The scheme harks back to the days when Lotus were sponsored by cigarette brand John Player Special and won championships in the 1970s with the likes of Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.
"There has been a lot of negativity about being associated with a cigarette brand," said Fernandes, whose team had announced last month a similar colour scheme.
"There was a strong lobby building up against (black and gold), that we were promoting a cigarette brand. So everything happens for the right reasons."
Fernandes` team competed as Lotus Racing under licence from Proton and Lotus Group this year but have changed their name to Team Lotus after buying the rights from David Hunt, brother of the late former champion James.
The AirAsia airline boss said he had wanted to continue as Lotus Racing but the deal had been terminated by the other side.
"I`m disappointed at the way things have turned out," said Fernandes, who is seeking damages for wrongful termination of the agreement whilst also asking the High Court to rule on the validity of his Team Lotus rights.
"We received a five-year licence agreement from Proton and Group Lotus to go into Formula One. The reason why it wasn`t Team Lotus was because they clearly told us they didn`t have the rights (to that name) so they gave us the licence."
"We initially called ourselves F1 Lotus Team but their lawyer said `No, you can`t use Team because David Hunt may injunct us. So we changed it to Lotus Racing. We thought we had five years to go out there and prove ourselves."
"My original aim was that somehow we would merge or do something together and co-exist," added Fernandes. "Those plans all changed when Dany Bahar appeared on the scene. He had a very low regard for us."
Lotus Group CEO Bahar worked formerly for Ferrari and Red Bull and has ambitious plans for his company, with new road car models in the pipeline and involvement in several racing series.
That includes linking up with Renault F1. The French carmaker have sold their 25 percent stake in the team to Luxembourg-based Genii capital, who plan to sell them on to Lotus Group who are also the new title sponsors.
"They have said that they will beat us on the track next year and I have no doubt that they will at the beginning of the season," said Fernandes, whose team failed to score a point this year but were the best of the newcomers.
"But towards the end of the season, I think we will chip away and be closer and closer."
"We haven`t acquired a team that was built up by a car company...we have built it from scratch and we think that adds more value and credibility to the brand," added the Malaysian.
"I think it`s no secret that Dany Bahar wants to emulate Ferrari but Ferrari built everything from scratch. It is a racing team that became a car company and is completely integrated."