Group Lotus’ move into formula one risks damaging the historic brand and bringing the sport into disrepute.
That is the charge of David Hunt, the brother of 1976 world champion James Hunt who held the rights to the ‘Team Lotus’ name for years until recently selling it to Tony Fernandes’ outfit.
But since those plans were announced, the separate Proton-owned sports car maker Group Lotus – headed by former Ferrari and Red Bull marketing man Dany Bahar – has launched its own foray to buy into Renault F1 and be title sponsor.
This has led to the bizarre prospect of two warring teams in 2011 both called ‘Lotus’, powered by Renault engines and fielding near-identical black and gold liveries.
“Have the sponsors on Renault’s car all been warned what they are in for and the damage that might occur to their brand through association of what is effectively a declaration of war by Proton?” wondered Hunt.
“And given Renault still have a suspended sentence tied to them after bringing the sport into disrepute (for crashgate) in 2008, are they doing so again by deliberately and wilfully confusing the public over the Lotus brand?” he is quoted by the Norwich Evening News.
“I think it’s silly, whatever angle you look at it,” concluded Hunt. “Talk about confusing the public.”
But Renault team owner Gerard Lopez denies Group Lotus is the cause of any confusion, insisting that even Bernie Ecclestone supports the new alliance.
“As far as we’re concerned (F1 chief executive) Bernie has been involved and obviously this happened with his blessing,” he told London’s Telegraph.
Renault team boss Eric Boullier also hailed the deal.
“This is great news because it is rare to find a principal sponsor in F1 with a contract for seven seasons,” he said in a French language AFP report.
“A budget in the short, medium and long term is essential to become a top team,” added Boullier. “If your employees have a deadline, they will not have the right motivation.”
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