Lotus in F1 return

The historic marque of Lotus is to return to Formula One for the first time since 1994.

Motor sport’s world governing body, the FIA, have granted Lotus the 13th slot on the grid from next season.

Although the team is based in Norfolk, some 10 miles from the Lotus Cars factory, it is funded via a partnership between the Malaysian Government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs.

Lotus, which competed in F1 from 1958 through to 1994, was awarded its place ahead of BMW Sauber and Epsilon Euskadi following an intensive selection and due diligence process conducted by the FIA.

Despite what the FIA describe as “an impressive application” from BMW Sauber, the fact the German manufacturers are withdrawing from the sport at the end of the year, left “uncertainties regarding the future ownership of the team”.

However, the FIA noted that considering BMW Sauber’s application is “of high quality”, they “would constitute a competitive participant in the championship”.

The FIA added: “As such, it has awarded BMW Sauber the ’14th place’ in the championship, meaning that it will be entitled to fill any vacancy that arises on the 2010 grid.

“In addition, the FIA believes that a good case can be made for expanding the grid to 14 teams.

“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.”

It is Lotus, though, who will definitely be on the grid next year, spearheaded by team principal Tony Fernandes, who is the founder and CEO of the Malaysian-based Tune Group, owner of the Air Asia airline.

Mike Gascoyne also returns to F1 as the team’s technical director, with 20 years experience in the sport after working with Jordan, Renault, Toyota, and most recently Force India.

The team will use the RTN facility in Norfolk, which was built by Toyota for its initial Formula One programme and then used by Bentley for its successful Le Mans programme.

However, the team’s future design, research and development, manufacturing and technical centre will be purpose built at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

Lotus, who used eight different engine suppliers during their previous 37-year stint in the sport, have agreed a deal with Cosworth.

The team contested 491 grands prix, winning 79 en route to seven constructors’ titles, helping Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi become world champions.

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