Frankfurt 2009: Lotus Returning to Formula One

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Lotus is returning to Formula One racing with a team run by the Malaysian government and a group of Malaysian investors.

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile selected the Lotus F1 Team to replace the withdrawing BMW team in the 2010 season. Lotus will be the 13th team, restoring the brand as an F1 constructor for the first time since 1994. Lotus confirmed the news at its press conference at the Frankfurt Auto Show.

The team will be headed by Tony Fernandes, founder and chief executive officer of Malaysian-based Tune Group, owner of Air Asia airline. Though the ownership is based in Malaysia, the team will initially be based in Norfolk, England, just ten miles from the Lotus factory.

The BMW Sauber team was appointed the 14th team, ready to step in should another team withdraw, though the FIA says it may increase the grid to 28 cars. In a news release, the FIA said BMW Sauber had an “application of high quality” and would be competitive even without the support of the manufacturer.

[Source: FIA]

Official release after the jump.

Following an intensive selection and due diligence process, the FIA has awarded the 13th entry in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship to the Lotus F1 Team.

The FIA also received an impressive application from the BMW Sauber Team. However, given that BMW has announced it will withdraw its support in 2010, there are still uncertainties regarding the future ownership of the team.

Nevertheless, the FIA considers that BMW Sauber’s application is of high quality and would constitute a competitive participant in the Championship. As such, it has awarded BMW Sauber the ’14th place’ in the Championship meaning that it will be entitled to fill any vacancy that arises on the 2010 grid.

In addition, the FIA believes that a good case can be made for expanding the grid to 14 teams. The FIA will be consulting urgently with the existing teams regarding the introduction of an appropriate rule change to expand the grid to 28 cars in time for the first Grand Prix in 2010.

Detailed below is information about the new team that has been confirmed to compete in the Championship from next year.

Company Name: 1Malaysia F1 Team Sdn Bhd
Team Name: Lotus F1 Team
Country: Malaysia
Team Principal: Tony Fernandes

A partnership between the Malaysian Government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs, 1Malaysia F1 Team returns the Lotus name as a constructor to Formula One for the first time since 1994. The team will initially be based at the RTN facility in Norfolk, UK, some 10 miles from the Lotus Cars factory. A 50,000 square foot fully equipped facility, RTN was built by Toyota for its initial Formula One programme and then used by Bentley for its successful Le Mans programme.

The team’s future design, R&D, manufacturing and technical centre will be purpose built at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

Team Principal Tony Fernandes is the founder and CEO of the Malaysian-based Tune Group, owner of the Air Asia airline. The team’s Technical Director Mike Gascoyne has over 20 years of experience in Formula One having previously performed the same role for the Force India, Toyota, Renault and Jordan Formula One teams.

As part of its application to compete in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, the team has agreed an engine supply deal with Cosworth and a wide variety of technical partnerships including Xtrac and FondTech.

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

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