Force India and Lotus battle gets rougher — in court

Force India today released a fairly strong statement in its ongoing — although you may have forgotten it — claim against its wind tunnel partner and Mike Gasgoyne about stolen data and whether it was given to the new Lotus team. Force India says it is taking the issue to court.

Here’s the statement:

Statement regarding Lotus

The Force India F1 Team confirms it has instigated UK civil proceedings against 1Malaysia Racing Team SDN BHD (a Malaysian company), 1Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Limited (Lotus Racing’s parent companies), Michael Gascoyne and Aerolab SRL. Force India also confirms that a complaint for disclosure of confidential information was filed in December 2009 with the competent authorities in Italy and that investigations are being conducted.

Force India believes that Lotus Racing, via its use of Aerolab and Fondtech facilities and data, has utilised and benefited from the use of Force India F1 Team’s intellectual property, including components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the Force India F1 Team, on its wind tunnel model design for the current Lotus T127 chassis without permission from the Force India F1 Team.

Force India states these are very serious claims and therefore it would not be taking such action if it could not provide supportive evidence.

Additionally Force India would like to clarify that any action between Aerolab and Force India for undue termination of contract is now being addressed by the courts. Force India confirms it paid approximately one million euros in autumn 2009 to secure the payment claimed by Aerolab and it is now for the competent courts to decide whether, indeed, this outstanding amount should be paid to Aerolab given the seriousness of these current allegations.

For reference, the civil court action documentation is in the public domain and can be accessed via the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division.

Just yesterday, Lotus announced that it was not a part of the matter, with a spokesperson saying:

Lotus Racing has been joined as a co-defendant in civil proceedings which are principally between Force India and Aerolab/Fondtech. These proceedings do not allege any wrong doing on the part of Lotus Racing.

Aerolab/Fondtech vigorously denies any wrong doing and has provided Lotus Racing with a full indemnity in relation to the claim.

I’m no lawyer, but it sure sounds like Force India wants Lotus to be part of this trial.

As is typical in these cases, both sides are pleading their case 100%, so from outside it is difficult to say who is right. I would think, however, that it will make for a chillier paddock area and certainly is not the type of action that unites FOTA.

I also wonder how much of a distraction it all is. And which team would that hurt more?

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