It is now official that Group Lotus, the subsidiary of our national carmaker Proton Holdings Berhad has bought a major equity stake in the Renault Formula 1 team next year and they will compete under the new name, Lotus Renault GP. The team has confirmed their participation for the next 2011 season due to start in March.
This means that Group Lotus will become the title sponsor of the team starting next season and will be using their new (or traditional) black and gold livery. Dany Bahar, the chief executive of Group Lotus said that with the acquisition, their position could be formally clarified. Lotus was involved in the just concluded season where they raced under the Lotus Racing team led by Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, who claimed to had purchased the rights to use Team Lotus next season when he bought Team Lotus Ventures Ltd recently. The official brand owner of Lotus however claimed that Fernandes did not have the right to do so and subsequently parted ways.
Renault had over the course of the last season announced that they want to limit their role in the F1 by just being an engine supplier and with the acquisition, it seemed that it is a win-win situation for both the companies. They sold their stake back to the co-owner of the team Genii Capital who now owns 75% of stake in the team. Furthermore, the partners are set to leverage on not just the F1 path but also on other areas like incorporating the technologies into Lotus’ new models which include areas like KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), hybrid systems and others.
The chairman of Proton Datuk Seri Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh and the company’s advisor and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad are both upbeat about the acquisition which will propel the company forward in terms of branding and producing results. From Genii’s side, its founding partner, Gerard Lopez too echoes a similar sentiment. The news of the acquisition (or partnership, whichever way you see it) had surfaced for a while now and with the confirmation, it would be back to business and perhaps the next season would be better for Lotus while the 1Malaysia F1 team faces an uncertain future in terms of its name and direction. It could still be Team Lotus (which is a separate entity altogether) but with the engine coming in from Renault, such similarities might not be too conducive.