Dueling Lotuses

Casual viewers of last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix may have wondered why there were two competing race teams, both running cars powered by Renault engines, named “Lotus.”   Formula One reporter Joe Saward has a blog post, far too long to excerpt, which explains the whole mess.

Long story short: the Lotus car company and the Lotus F1 team have been completely separate entities since 1990, when Colin Chapman’s descendants sold the race team, which went bankrupt in 1994, at which time the “Team Lotus” name was purchased by David Hunt.  A Malaysian-owned race team entered F1 in 2010 and made a deal with the Lotus car company (Group Lotus, now owned by another Malaysian company, Proton) to use the historic name.  Group Lotus withdrew its licence at the end of the season, and subsequently made arrangements to sponsor the more successful Renault team.

But then the team that was known as Lotus, which stood to lose millions in TV revenues if it changed its name, made a deal with Hunt to use the “Team Lotus” name. Oh, yeah, they’d already made arrangements to use Renault engines for 2011, and both teams also planned to run cars in black and gold livery, like the legendary John Player Special-sponsored Lotus F1 cars of the 1970s and 1980s, before the newer team backed down.

Everybody got that?  The matter is now before the High Court in London, and just to make things even more confusing, Hunt now says Team Lotus is breaching its contract, and Team Lotus may respond by suing him for defamation  Too bad most Formula One races aren’t this interesting.

The late, great Ayrton Senna drives a Lotus to his first F1 victory at Estoril, Portugal, in 1985:

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