Team Lotus brand to disappear from Formula 1 next season

By Andrew BensonBBC Sport
Lotus Renault and Team Lotus
Team Lotus will race as Caterham F1 and Renault will become Lotus F1 Team

The historic Team Lotus brand will disappear from Formula 1 in 2012 following the resolution of the dispute over the Lotus name in the sport.

The brand has been sold to car company Group Lotus, sponsor of the Renault team, it was announced on Wednesday.

It is part of a plan that will see Team Lotus, owned by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, change its name to Caterham F1 in 2012.

BBC Sport understands Renault's new name will be Lotus F1 Team.

That name-change, although yet to be revealed officially, means the Team Lotus brand will once again disappear from the sport.

Last Thursday, the two teams were officially granted leave to change the names of the chassis they run, an agreement that is part of a wider deal to settle a long-running legal dispute over the use of the Lotus name in F1.

The row was between car company Group Lotus, owned by the Malaysian company Proton, and Fernandes, who owns the Caterham sportscar company.

An announcement on Wednesday said the dispute between the two parties had "ended amicably".

It added they would "work together on future projects in the automotive field".

The dispute over the Lotus name in F1 began in 2009, when Fernandes entered a team in F1 using the name Lotus Racing, under licence from Group Lotus.

At that time Group Lotus had made it clear to Fernandes that it did not own the rights to the name Team Lotus.

But the two parties soon fell out, with Group Lotus deciding it wanted to promote its brand in F1 with a more established team.

It agreed a sponsorship deal with the Renault team for 2011 and terminated its licensing agreement with Fernandes.

Fernandes then reverted to the historic Team Lotus name, having bought the rights from businessman David Hunt - brother of 1976 world champion James Hunt - who had purchased the rights to the name in 1994 after the team ran into financial difficulties. The team collapsed at the end of that season.

Both decisions were the subject of a lawsuit which was finally resolved in London's High Court in May.

A judge ruled Team Lotus could continue to race under that name but that Group Lotus retained the right to use the Lotus marque on its road cars, and in F1 if it chose to enter its own team.

Fernandes, however, had already begun formulating a back-up plan by buying English sportscar manufacturer Caterham in April.external-link

That led to new talks with Group Lotus, which ended with them submitting the joint request to change their names that was agreed by F1 decision-makers on Thursday.

The permission to change the names of the cars produced by the teams - and under which they are officially entered in the championship - was granted by the F1 Commission, a body of senior figures in the sport.

Chassis names have an impact on the amount of prize money a team can receive, which is partly distributed on grounds of historical results. Official permission from rivals is needed to change a chassis name because it has an effect on the amount of money all teams receive.

Last week, it was revealed that the cars run by the team currently known as Team Lotus would be known as Caterhams, and that the cars run by the team currently known as Renault would be called Lotus.

On Wednesday, Fernandes announced that his team would be called Caterham F1.

Group Lotus has, BBC Sport understands, decided that Team Lotus as a brand will disappear - hence the decision to call the F1 outfit Lotus F1 Team.

Group Lotus bought the rights to the Team Lotus name to ensure it had control over it and to prevent the possibility of a similar dispute occurring in the future.

The team has been racing under the official title of Lotus Renault GP this year, but is widely referred to as Renault to avoid confusion with Fernandes' Team Lotus, and because that is the official name of the cars it makes.

However, Renault, the French car company, no longer has any involvement, following the team's takeover by the Luxembourg-based venture capital group Genii Capital.

Genii boss Gerard Lopez has recently become a shareholder in Group Lotus and Genii is believed to be considering a full takeover of the car company.

Group Lotus chief executive officer Dany Bahar said in a statement on Wednesday: "We understand that this has been a very difficult and confusing time for the fans of the sport and the Lotus brand, so we are glad to have reached a clear resolution on this important matter."

Team Lotus chief executive officer Riad Asmat added: "We are proud of what we have achieved by bringing the Team Lotus name back to Formula 1 when many tried and, although we are sad to say goodbye to Team Lotus, we are excited about owning our own future and being in control of our own destiny.

"Now we have no-one to be compared to. We make our own history and we will remain green and yellow.

"We look forward to an exciting future racing under our new team name of Caterham F1 Team."