The Enstone team currently named Lotus, was acquired by an ‘investment group’ called Genii back in 2010 and has been funded by them ever since. The Genii ‘Lotus’ fund is made up of many investors all of whom who have repeatedly been called upon to put up more cash. They are now owed North of $150million and message sent in 2014 to Gerard Lopez who runs Genii and Lotus, was that ‘enough was enough’.
Lotus received around $63m from FOM for 2015 and some $25 million from Pastor Maldonado’s sponsor PDVSA. Add to this the other smaller sponsors and the team budget for the year came in at around $100m. However, it has been clear, that the car has been underdeveloped all season and is about to fall into the clutches of Toro Rosso in the F1 constructors’ table. Lotus’ F1 cars were impounded in at the Belgium GP due to umpaid debts, however a last minute resolution was found.
Given McLaren’s woeful year, this has been a missed opportunity for the Enstone team to make a significant move up the pecking order of F1 constructors and receive a bigger share of the 2015 prize money. It now appears inevitable they will finish 7th, a place ahead of last year with just another $6m extra for 2016 as a reward.
Red Bull Racing were offered a deal from Renault which would see them take over the manufacturing operations in Milton Keynes, but Dietricht Mateschitz decided this would be “unthinkable” and he revealed the engine contract with Renault for 2016 “is cancelled”.
Lotus on the other hand are desperate for a new owner and are progressing with a deal that will save the Enstone team and see Renault assume control for 2016.
It was reported during the Mexican GP that Bob Bell was leaving Manor F1. This is because he is set to return to Enstone where he was Technical director form 2003-2009. He was then appointed Team Principal and Managing Director following the “crash-gate” revelations. Bell’s Enstone tenure saw the building of the R25/R26 cars which won both driver and constructor titles in 2005/06 for Renault.
There has been little news on the Renault takeover of Enstone since a judge gave them a 90 day extension to resolve debts with the Inland Revenue. But now, Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi reveals Renault have been embedding their people in Enstone in preparation for 2016.
As to when the deal between Renault and Genii will be complete, Gastaldi remains cautious but optimistic. “Renault is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world, and there are procedures. They have been through the due diligence process, the [Lotus] board accepted and now they are on board already, working, pushing”.
“It’s an ongoing situation”, Gastaldi tells Autosport, “and I can understand when people keep asking ‘Why is it [the deal] not done yet?’
“The reason is we cannot dance faster than the music. We have to be patient and go with what is happening.”
So the future looks to be on the up for Enstone with Renault playing the role of ‘saviour’. Meanwhile, Red Bull Racing employees’ destiny is most uncertain.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison