Lotus no longer title sponsor of Lotus F1 team
LONDON - A title sponsorship agreement between loss-making Malaysian-owned sports car maker Group Lotus and Lotus F1 has been cancelled but the team will race on as Lotus, owner Gerard Lopez said on Friday.
Lopez, whose Genii Capital runs the former Renault team that has Finland's Kimi Raikkonen and France's Romain Grosjean as drivers, told the autosport.com website that "the sponsorship agreement and the obligations of Lotus have been terminated.
"There is no option from Group Lotus to buy into F1 now," added the entrepreneur.
Group Lotus had agreed their title sponsorship deal with the British-based team in 2010, and it was supposed to last until the end of 2017 with the ultimate aim of becoming co-owners along with Genii.
The car company is owned by Proton, which has been sold recently by Malaysia's state investment arm Khazanah to Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom.
The sponsorship development is the latest twist in a long-running and convoluted saga involving one of the sport's most illustrious and successful brand names harking back to the team founded by the late Colin Chapman in the 1950s that chalked up 79 race wins.
Malaysian aviation entrepreneur Tony Fernandes entered Formula One in 2010 with Lotus Racing, changing the name to Team Lotus for 2011 after a falling out with Proton and Lotus Group, who had their own plans with Renault.
Last season saw Team Lotus, powered by a Renault engine, compete on the same grid as rivals to Lotus-backed Renault - one outfit designated Team Lotus Renault and the other Lotus Renault.
Fernandes, after an agreement following legal action, changed his team's name to Caterham for this season while Renault became Lotus.
"We are happy to carry the Lotus name as we believe it is a good name for F1," said Lopez. "When we changed the name from Lotus Renault to Lotus, it opened up the door for a title sponsor."
Lopez said in February that he would be interested in buying Group Lotus from DRB-Hicom "if we believed that there was something good that can be done by acquiring that company."