I’ll go on the record and say I’m with Grace: I don’t get this whole Lotus thing. No one is really carrying the Colin Chapman mantle, someone is the Lotus cars I see whipping around the Malibu canyons and someone else is… well, crud. I’m not sure.
That being said, Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes has taken the battle over the Lotus name and whether he demanded way too much money from Group Lotus to a new level. And while saying it’s his “last statement” on the subject, he lobs so many bombs that I predict we’ll be hearing from him again.
Here is Fernandes, via Autosport:
“There was no such thing as an offer,” Fernandes told AUTOSPORT about Bahar’s claims. “There is an understanding that Lotus’s involvement with Renault is worth £20 million, which would therefore mean that I was seeking £60 million – which is a complete fabrication.
“We never got past an initial dinner meeting. Dany Bahar and Riad Asmat met and that was it. No offers were ever exchanged.
“We were very open to equity sharing, working together and other combinations. We wanted it to work for the good of the Lotus brand – and it made sense to combine.
“I can state categorically that there is no way we were three times more expensive. Dany got it into his mind that Mike Gascoyne was old school and that it would take a long, long time for Lotus Racing to be a challenger at the top.
“I think with the package we have got, towards the end of next season we will be not very far away from Renault F1 and if he had been a bit more patient, given it a bit more time and been open to news then a super collaboration could have happened.”
From there, Fernandes tries to play the victim card, and I guess that means that our discussion can be on whom you think is the villain in this case:
“It has got too much,” he said. “Over the last few days I have had attacks from Dany Bahar, Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez. Personally I think it has got a little bit out of hand and a lot of it is fabricated.
“How Eric Boullier can say we have fooled fans – I think that is an insult to fans. Fans will make up their own mind. If we are not up to the mark they will not give us any support. You cannot fool anyone.
“This will be my last statement on the matter and hopefully some common sense will arise.
“All we wanted to do was bring Lotus back to racing and build a good relationship with Group Lotus and I think that would have been the best solution for everyone.
“We never wanted to bring these matters up in public, and when it (Lotus sponsoring Renault) came out we kept a very low profile about it.
“But there have been so many accusations that we have had to defend our position. If Group Lotus value the brand then we should try and find a solution to this. We are open to that.”
The one bright side to all this I see is that there is now a natural — and maybe even real and personal — rivalry between Lotus Renault and Team Lotus heading into 2011. Of course, whether Fernandes will be so confident that he’ll make a wager — ala his one with Richard Branson — I think is pretty unlikely.
All of this does settle one argument in my mind, however: Team Lotus and Fernandes are far and away the most successful of the new F1 teams simply in terms of how quickly they’ve learned to act just like a Ferrari, McLaren or other long-time team.
So, again: Whom do you see as the villain here? How do you think Group Lotus and Renault should respond? And… is there anything really meaningful to this argument?