James Key, the former technical director of Sauber says that he has a job in England waiting for him. Having done a little homework, it seems that Key is not going to be a Formula 1 technical director any longer but instead is going to another high profile in the industry.
My spies tell me that the Englishman will be heading to Norfolk, for a new role as technical director of all motorsport activities at Lotus Cars, where he will probably report to the director of motorsport Claudio Berro.
The car company’s approach to motorsport in the last 18 months has been to slap a badge on anything that money can buy. The firm is contracted to pay large sums of money to the Lotus F1 Team, although it does not own the Enstone operation, even if Dany Bahar, the Lotus CEO, has a seat on the board.
In addition to that Lotus is supplying Lotus-branded Judd engines to IndyCar teams, several of which will run in Lotus liveries in 2012. These will include the works team Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which will field Oriol Servià and one other; in addition to Bryan Herta Autosport’s Alex Tagliani; Dragon’s Sébastien Bourdais and HVM’s Simona de Silvestro. There is the possibility of individual aerodynamic kits for teams in the future, so this is one area where Key could make a difference.
Lotus is also funding teams in GP2 and GP3, in association with ART Grand Prix, which has recently changed its name to Lotus Grand Prix (an interesting development given that Lotus does not own its own Grand Prix team and ART has long had F1 ambitions) and the French squad will be running teams in black and gold livery with GP2 cars for Esteban Gutierrez and James Calado, and GP3 cars for Daniel Abt and Aaro Vainio.
In addition Lotus Cars is paying for Lola LMP2 cars, which will appear in black and gold colours in 2012 with Colin Kolles’s Kodewa team. This is instead of the original plan for Lotus to build its own LMP2 prototypes, that project having been shelved in October.
There are also expected to be Lotus GTs in racing and rallying, although it is not yet clear whether these will run in black and gold liveries or not.
While paying for signage on other people’s cars is one way to get publicity, there is a danger that people will not see such projects as being real Lotus programmes and thus it is perhaps wiser to reduce the scatter-gun effect and concentrate on ares where the firm can be a manufacturer.