x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

F1 war for Lotus name ahead

The branding is an issue with the Malaysian team wanting to keep the name while the British company plan a return to Formula One.

Heikki Kovalainen, of Finland, will be driving for Team Lotus in the 2011 season.
Heikki Kovalainen, of Finland, will be driving for Team Lotus in the 2011 season.

Lotus Racing have entered next season's Formula One world championship under the new name of Team Lotus despite a legal dispute over the use of the evocative marque.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) issued the official list for 2011 yesterday, with Italian Jarno Trulli and Finland's Heikki Kovalainen named as drivers for the Malaysian-owned team.

The pair raced for Lotus Racing this year, but had not been confirmed formally by the British-based team prior to the list being published.

Tony Fernandes, the team principal, acquired the Team Lotus name, as used by Colin Chapman, the late founder, in the glory days of the 1960s and 70s, after a falling out with Malaysian carmaker Proton and their Lotus Group.

However, those rights are disputed by sportscar makers Lotus Group, who have motorsport plans of their own, and a court case is pending in Britain which could yet force another renaming.

Fernandes said after the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, where his team emerged as the best of the newcomers, that he wanted to keep the Lotus name if possible but did not want to damage the brand.

To complicate matters, Lotus Group have been rumoured to be close to a sponsorship deal with the Renault team, part-owned by the French manufacturer whose engines will power Team Lotus next season. Renault were entered for 2011 under the same name as this season, however.

The other notable change on the list involved Sauber, who finally drop the BMW part of their name a year after being sold by the German manufacturer. They will now be known as Sauber F1 team.

The top four teams in the championship all have unchanged line-ups, with Sebastian Vettel, the world champion, partnering Mark Webber at Red Bull-Renault again.

There is uncertainty though about Renault's second driver, with Russian Vitaly Petrov not confirmed alongside Poland's Robert Kubica yesterday.

Williams also have a vacancy, although Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado is expected to partner confirmed Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, while Toro Rosso, Force India, Hispania Racing Team and Virgin Racing did not name any drivers in yesterday's list.