Lotus name returning to F1 with Malaysian backing

The Lotus name will return to Formula 1 next year, courtesy of a consortium of Malaysian interests.

The FIA awarded the new operation the 13th place on the grid after Sauber’s failure to sign the new Concorde Agreement cost the Swiss team its guaranteed entry.

An earlier bid to revive the name failed to impress the FIA sufficiently when three team ‘franchises’ were handed out in June. However the Lotus project subsequently gathered momentum and heavyweight financial backing, and thus became a more realistic proposition.

The new team has the full support of Lotus Cars, which has been under Malaysian Proton ownership since 1994 – the last year that the original Team Lotus competed in the F1 World Championship.

The project also has the backing of the government, which is keen to promote its 1Malaysia campaign, an attempt to encourage the country’s different races to work together. Also involved is Tony Fernandes, the colourful boss of budget airline Air Asia, which has hitherto been a sponsor of Williams. Fernandes will serve as team principal during the start-up phase, before stepping down early next season.

Former Renault, Toyota and Force India technical boss Mike Gascoyne will take a similar role in the new operation. The team will be based at the former Bentley facility in Norfolk, about 10 miles from the main Lotus base.

A key element of the Malaysian concept is the construction of an R&D and manufacturing base alongside the Sepang track, although it won’t be operational for several years.