The Lotus name will return to Formula One for the first time since 1994 after the sport’s governing body, the FIA, announced that the team has been awarded the final grid slot for next season.
In a statement issued on its website, the FIA said that it had received an “impressive application” from the existing BMW-Sauber team. However with the long-term future of the Hinwil operation still in doubt, there wasn’t enough certainties in place for the team to be guarantee to survive.
BMW will therefore be given the fourteenth place on the grid, making them a provisional team incase a vacancy becomes available. The FIA also revealed that it was in talks with the existing teams about the possibility of extending the grid to twenty-eight cars next year, and that if this was agreed then the Swiss team would be welcomed onto the grid.
“The FIA believes that a good case can be made for expanding the grid to 14 teams.” read the statement, “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.”
Lotus will be backed by a partnership between the Malaysian government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs, known as 1Malaysia F1 Team Sdn Bhd. The Team Principal will be Tony Fernandes, the founder and CEO of the Malaysian-based Tune Group who own the Air Asia airline.
Former Force India technical director, Mike Gascoyne, will return to the sport in the same role. Gascoyne, who has had over twenty years experience at the likes of Jordan, Toyota and Renault, had long been linked with such a link-up.
In today’s annoucement, the FIA also confirmed that Lotus had agreed an engine supply with Cosworth as well as a wide variety of technical partnerships including Xtrac and FondTech.
The team will be initially based at the RTN facility in Norfolk, UK, some 10 miles from the Lotus Cars factory. This 50,000 square foot fully equipped facility was originally 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.