A Lotus Renault will be on the grid in 2011, no matter what the outcome of the legal battles

December 3, 2010

Apologies for the gap, but hopefully this is a return to a more regular posting pattern on the blog.

I’ve been watching the machinations around Team Lotus, Group Lotus and Renault with some interest, and although there seems to be some way to go (and presumably a lot of legal fees and a few trips to court) before we know which Lotus will be on the grid, we can be pretty sure that there will be a Lotus Renault of some description in 2011.

It is now clear that Renault’s strategy in F1 is to go in exactly the opposite direction to Mercedes, who have moved from being an engine supplier to a full constructor with the acquisition of Brawn GP at the end of 2009. Renault however are in the process of moving from being a full constructor to an engine supplier, having sold a significant proportion of their F1 team to Genii Capital, also at the end of 2009, it looks like they will continue this exit strategy and focus on purely supplying engines. After all, in partnership with Red Bull, they are the world champion engine supplier this year, their first since 2006. So as Renault withdraw as a constructor who will take their place in the Enstone based operation? Well, one scenario is that Group Lotus – with their new CEO, ex-Ferrari man Dany Bahar, and new ambitions: a full range of product concepts from the new Esprit due in 2013, to the four door, Lotus Eterne which looks to take on competitors such as the Porsche Panamera – will invest in the F1 team and create the new Lotus Renault F1 operation. Of course there is one problem to this scenario and that is the existence of Tony Fernandes’ Team Lotus who were the most successful of the new teams in 2010. Team Lotus is a separate legal entity to Group Lotus and continued to race in F1, following Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s death in 1982, until 1994 when they went into administration and the company, including the name and branding, were purchased by David Hunt, brother of F1 world champion, James Hunt. Hunt having recently sold the company to Fernandes’ F1 operation.

For 2011 Team Lotus have switched engine suppliers from Northampton based Cosworth Racing to the French manufactured Renault Sport power unit which proved so successful in the Red Bull chassis (and was also able to hold off Alonso’s Ferrari at the Abu Dhabi grand prix in the Renault chassis). Interestingly the new arrangement also includes gearbox and hydraulics from Red Bull Technology, so in effect the Team Lotus car of 2011 will be the same powertrain as the Red Bull. So whatever the outcome of the Lotus wars, we should still see a Lotus Renault of some kind on the grid in 2011, whichever one it is, it will be interesting to see how it compares to the Red Bull.

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