The ongoing battle over the Lotus name in Formula One has today scaled new height,s with Group Lotus joining forces with Renault.
For next season the Renault F1 team will be known as Lotus Renault GP, under a title sponsorship agreement that will run until the end of the 2017 season.
In a further twist, Lotus Renault GP have unveiled a black and gold livery that will adorn their cars for the 2011 campaign.
This puts Lotus Renault GP at direct odds with Lotus Racing, the team that was back on the grid this season after a 16-year absence.
However, the name of Lotus only returned to F1 under licence from the car manufacturer Group Lotus, with the full backing of parent company Proton.
Lotus Racing owner Tony Fernandes had planned on rebranding his marque Team Lotus for next year.
That prompted an objection from the car maker Group Lotus, who claimed Fernandes had no right to use the brand.
Fernandes then sought High Court action in a bid to enforce his rights to the name, with the case still to be heard and with no date yet set.
Fernandes was also poised to run his cars in black and gold for 2011, going so far as to set up an online competition for fans to design the livery.
Today’s announcement, however, throws Fernandes’ plans in disarray and it is almost certain his team will now have to compete under a new name and with new colours for next season.
In confirming the complete return of the Lotus manufacturer to F1, Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: “We’re well aware there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1.
“But I’m delighted to be able to formally clarify our position: We are Lotus, and we are back.”
Group Lotus has acquired a major equity stake in the team from Genii Capital, the private investment firm that last December bought an 80 per cent share in Renault.
Under this new partnership, Renault has now sold the remainder of its shares in the team to Genii Capital.
Genii Capital's co-owner, and the Renault F1 Team chairman, Gerard Lopez, said: “We are delighted we can now go public with the news we will be racing as Lotus Renault GP in 2011.
“It is extremely exciting to begin a new era for the team in partnership with Group Lotus, and we will continue to enjoy a strong relationship with Renault over the coming seasons.”
Renault will continue its support of the team with which it won the 2005 and 2006 world championships, as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise.
Reflecting this, Lotus Renault GP will continue to compete with the Renault chassis name and Renault will enjoy pre-eminent brand exposure on the livery.