One Lotus. Two Lotus. No Lotus?

Once upon a time there was a racing team called Team Lotus. It went out of business in the early 1990s and that was the last that was heard of it, until a bunch of Malaysians decided it would be a great idea to have another Team Lotus and the government (which owns the name) agreed to let them try to revive the name. In a rather eccentric fashion, they then decided to let another group take over Group Lotus, with a strategic plan to use motorsport to promote the brand. Thus began the Team Lotus versus Group Lotus battle. It has been utterly confusing for everyone, not least on the ground in F1 where there is a team called Lotus Renault GP (LRGP) and another called Team Lotus. To further complicate matters both use Renault engines.

One lot had a green car and the other lot a black car. Some call them “Good Lotus” and “Bad Lotus”, some call them “Lotus” and “Louts”. Most spectators cannot figure out which is which, and do not really care.

Team Lotus is relatively easy to understand. It is owned by Tony Fernandes and a number of his partners, who prefer to be under the radar. The other team is rather more complicated. This is the former Renault F1 team, which runs cars called Renaults. It is owned by a company called GenII Capital, which involves some investors from Luxembourg, who include Gerard Lopez and Eric Lux. They acquired the team by buying it from Renault, using money which was loaned to them by Renault’s bank!

When the bank wanted the money back (as they do) Lopez borrowed from a different bank and so found himself in debt to a man called Vladimir Antonov, who is a Russian. Antonov does not want to own a Formula 1 team (or so he says) and he is simply in the business to make money. Thus he wants Lopez to pay him back. At the same time Lopez signed a sponsorship agreement with Group Lotus, run by a man called Dany Bahar, a silver-tongued salesman who convinced the Malaysians to let him build an automotive utopia, in an industrial estate just south of Norwich.

Lopez put Bahar on the board on his team, on the basis that Lotus would be the team’s title sponsor for five years. However, this deal was later delayed for a year because someone said something that upset somebody and so the big bucks (borrowed by Bahar from Asian banks) did not start appearing at LRGP when they should have. To avoid any red faces, the cars have stayed black and gold. The problem is that this left the team short of cash as a result. The promising chassis has been largely wasted because Robert Kubica hurt himself and Nick Heidfeld had too small feet to fill the Pole’s empty boots. Vitaly Petrov said little, brought money from Russia and did OK.

Lopez has since been looking for money from a partner who is willing to let him do his thing in B2Bbut has yet to come up with a solution. He needs to pay to Antonov to stop the Russian taking control of the shares at some point in the increasingly less distant future. The word is that Lopez has prepared a suitable parachute for himself andf has given Bahar an option to buy the team if things get bad. Bahar is also smart enough to have acquired an option to buy it from Antonov. However, Bahar has been spending an awful lot of money in his quest to make Group Lotus shiny and new and that ha worried the folks at Proton, the organisation that owns Group Lotus. They are worried that Bahar is spending too much and want him to scale back on his wildly ambitious schemes. This may explain why his plans in IndyCar racing seem to have evaporated and the number of cars in the new Lotus range may well start coming down quite soon. Not to mention the fact that no-one has thus far shown any desire to buy one of the Lotus Exos Type 125 mock F1 cars.

In the meantime, Fernandes has decided that Team Lotus is not the best brand for him and having got himself a 20 percent share of the national airline in Malaysia in exchange for giving up on his Lotus dream (a fair exchange for a guy who knows the airline industry best) and he is now concentrating his efforts on developing the Caterham brand, building small light cars for the traditional Casterhamisters in Europe and for the new middle classes of Asia. The advantage of this route is that Fernandes can create whatever brand values he likes for Caterham…

Even so, there are still lots of question marks. And one scenario which everyone seems to have forgotten about is the possibility that Lopez will actually find the money to go on with his plan to have a team to use to build up his commercial networking operation. If this business makes him lots of commissions and is successful, there really is no need to sell the team to anyone – and perhaps even no need to change the name of the cars.

One can imagine that of late Renault has been wondering whether it was such a great idea to sell its team when it did. That greatly reduced the company’s profile in F1. At the time this was seen as a good idea because Renault was in the F1 doghouse after the Singapore Scandal. Those involved were pushed overboard and Renault then scuttled its own ship by selling it to Lopez, expecting the name to go away as well. But two years later with Renaults still racing (and not very well) that idea does not seem as bright as it did back then. The team is a little embarrassing, not least because the new owners cannot change the name of the cars without losing a vast pile of money (based on clauses in the secret Concorde Agreement).

Renault still has a very successful programme in F1, but only the F1 anorak fans know which engines are in which cars. If ones does not know about the industry and look at a Red Bull, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is powered by an Infiniti engine. Most punters think that Lotuses have Lotus engines. In an effort to fix this problem Renault’s new deputy CEO Carlos Tavares did a deal with Williams to revive the well-known “Williams-Renault” brand, which harks back to wildly successful days in the 1990s. That will give Renault some more profile in the sport.

Tavares is a clever man and he may also be thinking about the value of having a team running in Renault yellow, with a car called a Renault. That is not really hard to achieve if one has a moderate-sized pile of money. That would help put the team back on the straight and narrow and give Renault back some more profile, without taking on the responsibilities that ownership entails. The French government, which owns 15 percent of Renault and has a lot more internal clout than the shareholding suggests, is also in a position to lean on big French companies and get them to help out. France has a great tradition in the sport, it has a great car industry but its involvement in F1 is moribund. And that makes no sense at all. The Prime Minister Francois Fillon has been made to understand this and it looks like we will soon have a French GP back on the F1 calendar – and perhaps a French team as well, with some French drivers…

So maybe after all these months of Lotus versus Lotus and other such distractions we might go into 2012 with one car called a Renault, the other called a Caterham – and no Lotuses at all.

83 thoughts on “One Lotus. Two Lotus. No Lotus?

  1. “until a bunch of Malaysians decided it would be a great idea to have another Team Lotus and the government (which owns the name)” I know it’s a highly confusing picture but I thought David Hunt still owned the Team Lotus name at that point, and then sold it to Fernandes after Bahar/Proton refused several offers to buy it from him?

  2. Excellent article as always, Joe. The only thing I would dispute is that Group Lotus is not based on an industrial estate.

  3. A perhaps unintentional sub-theme in this story is the apparent laxity and caution of the “mainstream” F1 press, whether French or English. It has published few if any details about the capital structure of the team-that-used-to-be-Renault, and few about the various holding companies. An excellent post,

  4. Or perhaps two Renaults! Reggie Renault and Williams-Renault.
    Welcome back Jean Marie Ballestre, the fairest, most rational and unimpeachable etc 🙂 ha ha!

  5. Surely this item should have been entitled ‘The Lotus Position’ 😉 And now HRT are after a Reggie back-end. Form an orderly queue now….

  6. Two lotuses was already surreal, before Williams decided to try and look like a sepia photograph of their own heyday. I wonder what Rothmans made of it…

  7. Mr Saward, please lay on the couch and make yourself comfortable.
    what was it exactly that someone at enstone/group lotus did to upset you?

  8. Call me optimistic, but I hope Lotus (the people who make the cars you can buy) pull everything off, and that a great British brand is successful again.

  9. Hi,
    I’ve read a few articles here but never posted and just wanted to post to say great stuff, really informative stuff and am really enjoying it.

    Knew most of it already from JA, Autosport and a few others, but didn’t know about the payments being a year off and the black and gold not needed this year. Highly interesting given the massive whohar at the start from Bahar and the crew, thought it just pittered out but that brings some more context.

    Interesting point about Renault, but one wonders why Renault would allow the Infinity on Red Bull if they were after the name. Obviously Red Bull are the best car at the moment and have been since Brawn lost their double deck advantage (/everyone got it). And the Renault name being from the engine wouldn’t cost anything in sponsorship. It’s probably part of the engine argreement which was done before RBR had even won a single Gran Prix.

    That being said Infinity is tied with Renault through the Nissan connection, and Red Bull might be seen as an overwhelming brand, but Renault (who presumably had it written in the engine contract that Red Bull can’t have another engine brand on their car when usign the Renault engines) surely wouldn’t allow their sisters’ sister brand (Inifity) to throw money at Red Bull confusing the renault and infinity bit on Red Bull and weakening the individual name recognition for the sake of getting Infinity out their especially given that it wants name recognition itself.

    One would have thought renaming the engine Inifinity (i.e. Red Bull Racing-Infinity) would be better and putting Renault elsewhere without losing money.
    Currently they have
    Red Bull Racing-Renault (with Infinity plastered on it)
    Lotus Renault (with Lotus and Lada plastered on it)
    Team Lotus-Renault (with Caterham and Lotus plastered on it)
    and now Williams-Renault which might just have the Renault connection.

    Just makes no sense from a manafacturer that is supposedly wanting to increase their name in F1.

  10. As usual utterly brilliant Joe, brilliant brilliant brillaint. To help clarify the comment in there, as a Norfolk boy who can almost see Potash Lane from my house: Hethel GL base isn’t on an industrial estate per se, it’s the former hangars for the airfield, however it’s fair to say a small industrial estate has grown up around it, Classic Team Lotus, a paint supply company I think, and Hethel Engineering Centre at the end of the road. Team Lotus or whatever we are called today is on Hingham Industrial Estate however, I worked there when it was TOMS. Top work Joe!

  11. To my mind, an industrial estate is an area earmarked for multi use
    developement and use by industry, be it traditional heavy manufacturing, lightweight commercial or office/service activities

    How this fits in with LRGP (or Team GenII Bankas Snoras Proton) base, which only they occupy, is anyone’s guess……

    and by the way Joe, just being pedantic, but they are in Oxfordshire, just east of Chipping Norton… about 140 miles west of Norwich 😉

  12. Hmm… with the new engines coming in… plus KERS… Hybrid Renault Technology…

    Oh, sorry, my mind was wandering. If you have a moment, Joe, may I ask why you use capital I’s in Genii’s name? I was going to ask about pronunciation and whether it should be Gen 2 or Jen 2 or similar, until I realised I could try looking them up myself and I see even they don’t use capital I’s. Is it a joke or have I missed something?

  13. Joe,

    “Fernandes has decided that Team Lotus is not the best brand for him and having got himself a 20 percent share of the national airline in Malaysia in exchange for giving up on his Lotus dream…”

    Was that really all Fernandes had to pay?

    1. Johan,

      I think you misunderstand. Fernandes got a share in the airline… He gave them a few shares in his business, but it was definitely a sweet deal for him…

  14. “we might go into 2012 with one car called a Renault, the other called a Caterham – and no Lotuses at all.”

    Let’s not kid ourselves, there have been no lotuses for years. Legal ownership of a name doesn’t make one authentic. If I legally changed my name to John Lennon and formed a band, would you call it the Beatles?

    1. Peter Coffman,

      That is a matter of opinion. If you played good music… why not? In any case, a car company cannot be compared to a band. Based on your idea, no car company coukld use the same name because the main players would have changed since the beginning. Where are WO Bentley, Auguste Horch, Henry Ford and Alfred J Sloan these days?

  15. So after all these shenanigans Joe, do you still think it’s a good idea for teams to dig up the old brand names?

    1. Cynic,

      Why not? A brand is a brand. If one can sell Bugatti after shave because of brand associations, why not do it?

  16. Seems like a shell game to me. Borrow someone else’s money, pay that back to the next sucker -er, lender- who comes along. Rinse, repeat.

  17. I would love to know the details of the reason behind the delay in Group Lotus sponsorship for one year. I bet it was something trivial, a mother joke perhaps..

    The only sensible way forward with this story is for Lotus to start manufacturing F1 engines.

  18. I am mug enough to buy Team Lotus aftershave even if it smells of pig farms. I’d prefer Caterham aftershave, Surrey probably smells better.

  19. Have you heard anything regarding Group Lotus’s IndyCar plans? A number of smaller teams in IndyCar feel really pissed. The rules were designed for three manufacturers so they state that no manufacturer can supply more than 40% of the field, which is 10-11 cars. The slots at Honda and Chevy quickly filled up with the bigger teams and the smaller ones don’t get their phone calls returned or their emails answered by Lotus (which commissioned Judd to build the motors).

  20. Joe, thanks for the fascinating article.

    You mentioned a few weeks ago that the poltical situation is so volatile in France and Europe at the moment that they have even delayed the announcement of the French/Belgian GP deal. Would the French government, which until a couple of months ago had no interest in F1 at all, really support Renault purchasing back part or all of their F1 team, considering the current political climate?

  21. I rather like the idea of not having a Lotus team in F1 as the real Lotus team ceased to exist a long time ago and both of these guys (especially Bahar of course) are just marketing guys who could care less about the history, tradition, and values of the brand. Sleep well Colin, Jimmy, Peter, and Ayrton. The arrogant buffons stumbling over your graves will be gone soon.

  22. Joe, what do you think the longterm prospect is of Renault buying the Williams Team outright in the future. I get the feeling that Frank and Patrick are nearing retirement and probably have grown tired of the disappointing results for the last few seasons and are well aware of the cost needed to return them to a front runner again. It would seem a possible option for Renault to start investing small in Williams and if it works out and Frank & Patrick are ready to sell then it could become their new works team which would also help distance itself further from the bad links with its former team. The teams engineering and technologies could also be of much interest too.

  23. Thanks Joe, another fine article. Very fine indeed.

    Way off topic I know, but, can you help this old duffer out? It’s simply that I am unable to remember the detail.

    It concerns the F1 authorities, and when they first decided pole sitters were to be denied the choice of which side of the track from which to start. Also, if relevent, when was this brought into effect?

    Thanking you in anticipation.

  24. David Brazier

    Or the plural of Genie, suggesting to my mind smoke and magic tricks.

    All capitals and backward E’s and N’s aside, they call themselves Genii on their website so that’s what I’ll stick with, else we may start refering to ♦RENAULT.

    Hey, someone’s getting free advertising.
    http://www.gen2training.co.uk/

  25. Reading between the lines, Joe, I think you think Renault have made a pig’s ear of it all. Surely all they need is more insistence on brand recognition ? If they insisted on RBR-Renault, Lotus-Renault, GenII-Renault (or whatever) and Williams-Renault, it would more than equal the brand exposure they get from one team at a fraction of the expense. Especially as one of those teams happens to be winning everything.

    Come to that, why DO Mercedes run their own team when everyone knows they have the best engine ? They’re just neutalizing all the publicity they get from the motor, aren’t they ?

  26. David/Glentwo
    Here are a couple of alternatives:

    “Genii, The Conjurors’ Magazine, is the premier magazine published today in the world of magic.”

    “Although they appear to be simple Amish-like farmers, the Genii are an advanced, militaristic society. … The Genii subsequently launch an attack on Atlantis when the city is …”

    The Genii are humans from a planet in the Pegasus galaxy. To other humans, they appear to be simple

    So, possible alien technology at work folks! Take nothing at face value! 🙂

  27. Brilliant post. You managed to explain this mess and make it very funny at the same time. You should write professionally for magazines that actually pay you ! Oh, wait 😉 (ducking, I’m a subscriber!!!) Really, great post !!!

  28. Excellent article Joe.

    A few weeks ago you had mused about the possibility of Bahar being the actual owner of LRGP (behind some elaborate corporate shell game that would make Mr. Ecclestone proud, I would imagine), does this mean that that possibility has been ruled out? …if not, what if any implications could that have on the future of the team?

  29. question for joe,
    as someone who has seen passion rule the paddocks, aren’t you worried that too many bankers have come to the party. Bankers/finance whizkids (so called) anyway are clueless about sports or sporting heritage. fancy power-point presentations are easy to make, but difficult to execute. What’s your take?

    1. Vivek,

      Without money there is no motorsport. What is needed is money with the right kind of person (a la Fernandes)…

  30. To pinch Douglas Adams’ observation that at the point we understand our own universe, it will be replaced by a much more complicated one:

    Now we must all get to suss which is the Real Renault!

    Bugatti was mentioned. Sure, nothing of the former (former, former) company remained. But Peach knew to throw time money at at one point almost all of his best engineers (there’s a rotation system at VW which they make work superbly) to make it mean something again.

    Piëch was almost born to make cars, Fernandes to upset lame government monopolies. But TF doesn’t have control of Air Malaysia, and however politically smart he may turn out, that’s a dangerous drag for him right now.

    Precious few airlines have ever made profit on a long hold, and the new ones, back to SouthWest and the other budgets, are just coming up to the age where statistically every other airline went bust. Budget is good, in theory, in times like these, but thin margins and schizoid energy markets are scary. I got sidetracked enjoying the trademark action, an area i am keen on, but the economic signals have been around a good while. Much more simply: why do you start the best operator, only to covet the worst? All you get is unfireable staff and pension liabilities and entrenched bad attitudes. It is an annoying truism, that entrepreneurs rarely make the transition to good managers, and just as bad, other way around.

    Let me be first to say, TF will exit F1, soon, to concentrate on his main game. If there can be found a buyer. Soon is two years, time to reflect, and time in between to enjoy.

    On reflection. what i see in his escapades, football included, is an entrepreneur feeling trapped by the regulatory dullness which civil aviation can be. There may be a point at which regulation costs stymie real safety improvements. You have to be a certain type to like that. Whilst TF cannot have risen without being intimate with all those regs, i can never regain the thrill of gaining illicit access to my father’s Gestetner duplicator.*

    It sucks becoming the man you railed against. (I never set out to be the defender of a dwindling print game) I have to keep utmost the inherent contradiction that on one hand he is fighting a hopeless incumbent (national airline, and Proton, if he has a chance) but the true capitalist purpose of competing is to put your enemies out of business, particularly the inefficient ones. Ha! Maybe i am having a mid life crisis, because i know i could go on a a few thousand more words on what this kind of contradiction does to one!

    For the anoraks, it’s been nice to remember the history. But what it does for me is bother me that there just aren’t stand out innovations in F1 any more. Which, except for the dangerousness of it all when i was old enough to see a race, makes me a bit sad. Branding is not innovation. Innovation is branding, or the key to it.

    (You can trace that back as far as you like, but a favorite of mine is when pens came with cartridge ink. I’m quite sure i got just as much of that on my hands as with a rubber bladder pen, and papers looked cooler with splutterings of ink peppering them, airbrush for the more talented, but i really did not miss knocking over whole jars as a kid, that was calamity in comparison.)

    *The modern kind is made in Japan by Riso, sometimes sold under Gestetner branding. I once had a crackpot plan to use them to produce short run magazines. Nice company. They made color versions about 10 years later, with many of the properties i sought.

    1. John (OJ),

      Fernandes may not have control, but QPR has Malaysian Airlines sponsorship, so he certainly has a strong voice.
      I disagree with you about longevity of TF in F1. I think he’s in it for the long haul.

  31. Indeed Joe, wouldn’t that be something after all the time and battles in court that come this time next year there was no team with the name “Lotus” on the F1 circuit. If that did come about I’d get that feeling that many of the sport’s fans wouldn’t be too happy with any of these individuals for basically dragging the name Lotus ‘through the mud’ so to speak.

  32. Interesting article and I have wondered about the stories regarding Boullier’s attempts to put a French driver in the car due to political pressure etc. and how this related to a more significant deal with Group Lotus.

    I think a Lotus F1 team without a benign relationship with the car manufacturer is unworkable (the only reason to resurrect the brand is to promote the car manufacturer) and therefore I personally looked forward to a resolution where Renault became Lotus and got on with it and Lotus became Caterham and did likewise.

    I would prefer Lotus disappeared from F1 rather than be represented by a business that didn’t share their interests.

    However I can’t see Renault suddenly picking up where they left off with the F1 team, as they have put so much into the idea that they will supply multiple teams equally, so going back to the Enstone team would look weak. I also think that Proton executives will give Mr Bahar at least to the first big launch of a road car (the Esprit in 2013) to turn the business around and the F1 deal may have been signed off on the condition they can rename the chassis.

    I guess we’ll see, but I personally think it is more likely that Group Lotus will come to the rescue before Renault.

  33. A few thoughts about Lotus. First, after Vanwall (check Lotus connection if you will), they were the team that made me an F1 fan. Clark 1962 in the 24 and 25 appeared magic. At age 13 I had a ‘soapbox cart’ painted green with a yellow stripe. I now own a 90% restored (aren’t they all) Lotus 50 (aka Elan+2). So, bottom line, I’m keen (I could go on :-).

    In my opinion: Renault, Genii, Proton etc with a massive blingish Lotus badge is just ugly and false. The term “branding” makes me queasy.

    Fernandes is a fan. If I too had the combination of drive, money, influence, panache, keenness, and so on that he has I would create a green and yellow F1 car, hire Gascoyne to get it up and running and go racing. As “Team Lotus” if I could.

    To TF’s credit he has a mighty (to an enthusiast) backup plan.

    Oh – and this “confusion” about Lotus. Fans know. Greater public is unaware / don’t care. A non issue.

    If “Lotus” goes away again from the entry lists I don’t think that Lotus fans will be any more saddened than before. Especially if Fernandes keeps the spirit alive.

    He’s one of us.

    Keith

  34. Joe,

    As an avid reader of your blog for the past year and longer if you take into account “The Mole”, I want to add my voice in appreciation of the quality and information contained within your dispatches and the honesty of your opinions.

    Good to hear someone telling it like it is for a change.

  35. Flippin’ confused, me! So if TF renames Team Lotus to “Team Caterham Air Asia” and calls his chassis a “Caterham” or whatever and so drops the entitlement to name his chassis a “Lotus”, allowing Renault to rename their chassis “Lotus”, will TF have no need for the Team Lotus brand and sell it to Group Lotus?

    Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Maybe TF has his eyes focused well up the track. Because when the increasingly vulnerable Group Lotus is dropped by Proton et al, TF can maybe buy Group and inherit a well developed F1 team in Renault (now renamed to Lotus), and have a rookie test bed F1 team in “Caterham”, and he will have properly “arrived” as a big player in F1 and his Lotus dream becomes a big fat reality. And BTW imagine just how well Caterham road cars will then sit under a Group Lotus Banner with more or less the same hierarchical branding structure as the his F1 teams!

    Ok, perhaps that scenario is a bit too neat and too simple-minded to become a reality… 😦

  36. Great article Joe. This is one of your great pieces. I like your these articles of yours for 3 reasons :

    1- because they’re informative, precise and unique
    2- because of the style of your writing which I appreciate very very much. My English level is very average so my opinion is maybe not interesting style-wise but still, I like the way you write.
    3- You write a story which makes it very interesting and enjoyable to read

    But, because there’s always a but, I don’t see how a team based in France can be successful ?

    Prost said that if he had to re-do it again, he would establish a team in the F1 Valley & won’t call it Prost.

    French sponsors aren’t generous, French public isn’t keen on Green-non-friendly activities. So all in all, I don’t see where the optimism comes from.
    Besides, the presidential elections are planned next year and unless decisions are taken very quickly nothing grants that the following government will back Motorsport activities. After all, François Fillon (the prime minister) who is the motorsport fan & occasional driver in the government will leave the government for sure next year whether Sarkozy is re-elected president or not.

    I re-iterate the solution I gave on this blog :

    – Belgium splits
    – Spa belongs to French Wallonia which will be annexed to France
    – Spa will become the French GP
    – France will have a decent track, for the 1st time since I started following F1

    P.S : I said nice things but it’s only a momentary weakness ! The torrent will be back soon

    P.S.2 : IMHO You should write F1 stories on events or biographies but in a different way, closer to a novel while keeping the historic accuracy (less biased preferably even if I know it’s impossible)

  37. Mr Saward, please remain on the couch.

    “No-one did anything. I just recognise a bunch of bullshit when I hear it.”

    You come across as very vitriolic towards the enstone/group lotus/genii side of this story. Would you care to elaborate what you consider to be BS?

  38. Hi Joe,

    I’m making an outlier bet, without even a seat at the match, so i believe your direct view on TF. I’ve no reason to disbelieve him neither you.

    My bet is based on the small chance that there will be a greater gravitational pull as he starts to deal with the Air Malaysia concern. I’m no longer up on the Aviation business, so instead i’ll suggest counterarguments to my above:

    – Fuel prices may not affect either of the airlines. Although in theory there ought to be arms length accounting, the government shareholding is an effective hedge, since they, ahem, own an oil producer. Maybe this connection was the canniest move on Tony’s part.

    – Solving Air Malaysia may not be a “good manager” job. It may actually need TF being outside to shake it up.

    I guess i am trying to construct a collar option on my bet, but bets aren’t worth buying into when they are common theory, so i’ll stand by it. If I win, i shall be so so about it all, as it’s a theoretical bet. If i loose, i owe you a penalty and TF an apology which i’ll happily forfeit.

    What i’m wondering is that if TF traded his Lotus interests to lever one thing, he might trade his motoring interests to get interest in another, being Proton. It’s about changing one’s mind when the facts change. I do think TF is good for F1, so i’d rather he stayed, and spent more.

    Very long shot bet 🙂

    . . .

    Tangent, because i lost my place the prodigious amount of news here, but someone asked why sponsors might be in a rush this time of year. I’d in that discussion suggested the economy is making some sectors in advertising twitchier than usual. But fact is, it’s a very seasonal game. I could in theory trade between September and March – trade, not build deals – and be pretty okay.

    . . .

    I also moaned above about developments in F1. Obviously Chapman was a big mover on design (often too far) and that was the intended context. With all the constraints on F1 development, it rather feels like watching the CPU wars post shakeout in the mid nineties. Once it was down to Intel and AMD and ARM as the volume low power option* the constraints of fabrication and process made it much more predictable. Quite a few pundits called it right a decade ago with uncanny accuracy.

    *ARM is the most prevalent chip design by numbers, British, and the heart of it was designed by a woman i’m truly ashamed to forget her name.

    This might be a bit geek, and i’m not sure i followed it properly after several views, and there are numerous facets of this experiment in terms of assumptions, rigor and simulation detail which could accumulate significant differences to the real world, but this chap tried some Darwinian experiments to build a better wind turbine by genetic simulation:

    What is interesting is towards the end, where its pointed out that despite the roughness, apparent crudeness of the automatically generated veins, in critical areas the airflow is exceptionally stable. The simulation appears to outperform a well known and tested best of breed commercial design. I’ll skip how hard it might be to manufacture what was derived in that video, but 3D printing might manage it.

    Point of all that, is it may not be so outrageous to imagine well have latter day equivalents to the vast tea tray wings, 6 wheelers and all that variety all again. Not sure how you put sponsor decals on something like that video sim came up with, but fortunately not an immediate headache.

  39. Another really interesting take on how things stand now with Lotus-es etc. Had to read it twice to get all of that, but the bits about the funding having been delayed and Renault possibly rethinking things now make the picture fit again.

    Fernandes is doing a great job of doing what he is good at. Take opportunity, money and pick the right people to make it work. Can not but appreciate that remarkable job he is doing.
    Having brought Karun on board for the indian Market shows he really is looking at it from the perspective of where the customer potential is nowadays.

  40. Sadly this seems to be a very ‘F1’ story full of egos and wasted money.

    On the Renault side they seemed to totally lose their nerve after Singapore Crashgate – and just seemed to want to be out of the situation at any price – rather than to stay and rebuild their reputation – and I don’t think the fans or the F1 media (well some of the F1 media!) would have blamed Renault for this matter (as the holding company) in any event given that they got rid of the alleged perpetrators.

    That said historically a branded cooperation (Williams-Renault McLaren Mercedes etc) appears to have been a better route for most (except Ferrari) motor manufacturers.

    it will be very interesting to see what Tony Fernandes does with Caterham – they are the most enjoyable cars I have driven to date (although no way could it be my only car given the compromises)

  41. Joe, I just came across this quote from Carlos Tavares on your colleague James Allen’s blog:

    “Having an F1 team as a manufacturer is a double edged sword. You have to win. And if you do not win, it’s serious. The solution of being an engine supplier makes sense and is clearly more long term for a manufacturer.”

    What would you make of that, since you appear to imply that Renault should buy back (part of) their former team?

    Otherwise, keep up the good work!

  42. I’d not realised the video above would embed in the comment. Sorry for that. I’d expected just a link, which was the idea as it is tangential at best.

    TF is interviewed by Bloomberg, about QPR and separately about Caterham and general business. If you search there the video is in archive.

    Quite a compilation here from earlier: http://www.goanvoice.org.uk/supplement/TonyFernandes.htm

    Incidentally, I really like having The Economist on Kindle. But it is not only more expensive, but offers no archive. You can get the print edition and web access for half the price – score for traditional press! No adverts on the Kindle is the explanation.

    For anyone not familiar with publishing maths, there’s an excellent explanation of the recent economics here:

    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2005/pulpit_20051229_000475.html

    The second class mail thing is US specific (although here we have a scale hurdle to get what’s called “direct inject” mailing in the EU which is just as difficult a leap) but it’s sound logic in that article, and quite a bit ahead of most punditry.

    On tape for Bloomberg, TF says Air Asia is not hedged for fuel costs. If he’s called that right – i.e. prices will go lower, and that’s a possibility as spec money has driven oil very high, and may be being pulled out to shore up base capital, that’s some wicked timing. He’s damned good at timing so far. But inside just a couple of days, Malaysian Air System has got stuck with unions, and i don’t like the sound of what MAS’s chairman Azman Mokhtar is reported as saying.

    That compilation link is as nice a set of profiles as you might wish for yourself, and rings entirely true, to this outside observer. I’m worried over wobbly bits though.

  43. Thank you Joe for once again calling bullshit bullshit…

    Snake oil meets an airline …

    What any of this has to do with F1 is beyond me…

    Hang on, no it’s not it means nothing….

  44. It occurred to me, on pondering the question which Lotus has the spirit of Colin Chapman, that the answer is probably Fernandes Lotus on the track and Bahar Lotus on the books…

  45. In those print interviews linked above, TF makes a point to say he is a manager type.

    I had to double take. He was a music manager, yes, but music is a very speculative game. Even when you take out the wonderful ways the studios claw back from artists, see Courtney Love’s thorough calling out BS to all that in a Wired interview. (Shocked me, she is possibly sane! 🙂 )

    I genuinely wish i had that nice presentational touch, and i’m not calling TF any names at all. It’s just i am absolutely effing awful at politics required to smooth things with so many constituencies, and jealous of the style, would have made my life much easier! I just axe the dissenters 🙂

  46. Danny Bahar is happily defending his plans for (Group) Lotus road car expansion – http://smh.drive.com.au/motor-news/lotus-defends-new-model-plans-20110916-1kcjy.html

    I find it a bit odd, though, that with 5 new models in the next 6 years, that the design team have enough time to create new versions of their existing platforms. Shouldn’t they be busy designing all of these new cars? I understand that they need to keep things on the boil, but that could easily be done by having these new versions better spread over the next few years until the various model is replaced.

  47. Some inaccuracies; especially regarding Governmant involvement and ownership. You’ve also obviously never been to Group Lotus if you think an industrial estate is a green field with a stream running through it inhabited by ducks and carp!
    After generations of involvement with Lotus and decades of being married to an ex-Lotus senior person, who shall remain nameless, I can assure you that Lotus F1 will keep you occupied for a while yet. I appreciate this blog is merely mainly your opinion not fact, but you should ensure information you present as factual is correct.

    1. Mrs X,

      The blog aims to be mainly fact and a little opinion. If there are inaccuracies beyond ducks and fish, do enlighten us all. Saying that things are wrong but not saying why is unsatisfying for all concerned. I have done my homework on involvement and ownership. If your gripe is over the definition of what constitutes an industrial estate, I fear this is really a waste of energy. The difference between an industrial estate and old airfield buildings being used by industry is… what?

  48. Oh now come come Mrs X…. The stream you refer to (having been there very very recently) certainly doesn’t contain carp, unless they are of the rare flat bottomed variety, or possibly an amphibian strain that can live with their heads our of 6 inches of water, yes there are some ducks, who I believe also assemble the Elise on the night shift when there is one. The word stream might be overcooking it a bit, ditch or dyke might work, it’s also where the fag butts from the smoking shelter end up.

    I’d have to side with Joe and say the giant steel buildings, 300 place car park, steam belching from chimneys, security guards, barriers, and toxic waste notices on the drums outside the paint shop, added to the large office building, 40ft trailers and articulated cabs, former control tower, post assembly car parking in a giant marquee, piled up steel stock, surplus moulds on wheeled carriers, wrecked crash test cars, plus the road that leads to the Classic Team Lotus workshops, Colorcote Limited, McLellan Cleaning Services, and Ventalu Bathroom Equipment & Fittings (Factories & Manufacturing)….. sorta hints at the fact that it’s become a rural industrial estate.

    I’ll admit, the site was a green field. Then RG Carter (Builders) moved in and altered the green field, stream, carp, ducks etc so it could be used in support of a slight kick up going on in Europe. That was 1942.

    Oh and don’t get me started on Hethel Engineering Centre.

    Anyway Joe, back to F1, go on, start another argument…

    Nik

  49. Fernandes and fellow green and yelow team people have lied to the fans.
    Although no fan had started to believe that they were the “old Team Lotus” rightaway, they did use that as form of bringing people to them.
    They are liars and don´t care about TEAM LOTUS as we all knew and loved.
    It´s all about the money and the status they get out of it. If profits go down, they go out. It´s a shame that they had to use TEAM LOTUS history to capitalize and bail out.
    Those egomaniacs will crash soon enough, and be remembered as the liars they are.
    If at least they tried to beat Group Lotus ON TRACK, and then brake them and buying. That would be worth it.
    How do you change interest in such a huge thing in just about two years?
    Kinda like rich kids and their new toys.
    That, my greedy-for-the-green-friends, will not be erased from the sport history.

    1. No, they have not. They set out to do something. Were unable to do it and so went in a different direction. To say that is lying is simply wrong.

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