19 January 2011

The Lotus shemozzle (part 1 of 548)

Ex- Team Lotus (formerly Lotus Racing) test driver Fairuz Fauzy confirmed yesterday that he would join the ‘other’ Lotus team for the 2011 season as its’ official test and reserve driver. The 28 year old Malaysian driver decided to part ways with the debutant team to ‘pursue other opportunities’ at the end of last year and was given the teams blessing on the way out; funny how that one worked out for them! His deflection to the ‘Lotus Renault GP’ outfit, as it will be branded from 2011 onwards, has only added fuel onto what is an already raging fire of confusion regarding everything Lotus!

Now as I check all the F1 news sites hourly, I’m only a little confused by the whole matter (unlike most others); however it is the damage being done to the famous Team Lotus brand that spanned 5 decades from 1958 to 1994 that bothers me.

The legendary team owner Colin Chapman was a renowned innovator; being the first to run a monocoque chassis, the first to run ground effect aerodynamics and was only just beaten (by McLaren’s MP4/1) to being the first team to run an all carbon fibre chassis. In 1982 Chapman had just embarked on an intensive active suspension development program when he tragically died from a heart attack at age 54. Another innovation which was once again well ahead of its’ time.

This image of innovation and their desire to continually push the boundaries of engineering is an image that I not only associate strongly with the Team Lotus name; but I believe is Team Lotus. In this day and age of Formula 1, teams don’t have the flexibility in the rules to be able to innovate to the levels that Mr. Chapman and his crew were able to. Nowadays the biggest performance driven innovations you’ll see are a double diffuser or abnormally flexing front wings; things insignificant to the average Joe. So why is Tony Fernandes and his crew ruining this famous image?!

Wasn’t it enough to just be called ‘Lotus’? Noooooo... It had to be ‘Team Lotus’! Which is bloody ridiculous as far as I’m concerned because the fans and commentators are still going to call the cars bloody Lotus’ anyway! When are you going to hear Martin Brundle say, ‘Oh there you’ve got a Team Lotus car in the wall at turn 5.’ No! It’ll be, ‘Oh we’ve got a Lotus off!’ or ‘Kovalainen’s binned the Lotus!’ Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what Tony has tried to achieve and for that he should be commended. He has got a good technical director in Mark Gascoyne onboard and a very solid driver line- up. He quite comprehensively dominated the other new teams in 2010 and had one of the best team images or feels in the paddock in my opinion. He’s a very smart businessman.

But Tony... you’re only going to weaken the once iconic image. The new generation of F1 fans are going to remember Team Lotus in the years to come as ‘just another team’, whether you are ultimately successful or unsuccessful. This shouldn’t be the case! I think you’d be much better off making famous your own red and white livery under the banner of Team AirAsia than trying to be something that you quite clearly are not. Team Lotus grew to be more than a name. It grew into a way of thinking. So my advice? Develop your own team legacy mate! You can’t just fling your chequebook around and buy one!

Now as I turn my attention to you Lotus Renault GP (yes fella’s, you can’t avoid my wrath), I see the way in which you have shamelessly copied the famous JPS livery as... well... shameful! You attention seeking twats! Stealing something someone else made famous for your own gain! No it’s not just paint, it’s what it means. How dare you try and associate yourselves with such icons of our sport as Fittipaldi, Andretti and the greatest of them all Ayrton Senna. Again I say, create your own damn legacy! Don’t copy someone else’s! Wouldn’t it be far greater an achievement to have teams 35 years on from now copying the livery ‘you’ made famous in 2011? Wouldn’t it feel better to be sitting on your rocking chair watching F1 in 2046 saying, ‘I designed that.’ Or are you happy looking back and saying, ‘I copied that from someone else’?

Now the fact that the Lotus Group (Lotus cars owner) bought a stake in the Renault F1 team (owned by GENII Capital) to promote their road cars is a fair call in my opinion. I mean, it’s just a marketing opportunity; a chance to ‘sell more cars’. So I reckon that’s pretty well justified. I’ve got no issues with the their name choice. But they should keep their greedy hands off the image of the former greats!

Actually... I’m even bewildered as to why the Lotus Group felt they even needed to sponsor/co-own a team to promote their cars! Why not form a productive partnership with Tony Fernandes’ outfit? Whether the team is called Lotus and is owned or not owned by the actual car manufacturer, the viewers don’t care. All they see and hear is, ‘LOTUS’. They think, ‘Oh yeah the Elise, Exige, Evora...’ But if they feel the need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money doing that then they can go right ahead.

The whole thing is a total bloody mess! It looks to me as a very childish game between grownups who should and do know better. I would hope so anyway! I’ve probably rambled on far too much here but it’s something I’m very passionate about. Much of my relaxation time is spent watching the iconic black and gold Team Lotus’ on YouTube and seeking to learn more about them and then greedy, selfish and disrespectful billionaires come in and try and claim it as their own. It infuriates me!

I hope that in 2 months time when the lights go out in Bahrain, we see some spunky red and white AirAsia cars cruising around with the Williams’ and Sauber’s, while the sexy blue and yellow Lotus Renault’s set off from the second row. Now that would make my day; it would make my bloody year!