Lotus tipped to race at Monza

Lotus Formula One driver Romain Grosjean of France in the team garage during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend. While the team had experienced difficulty in paying for their tyres, Grosjean finished third at the Hungaroring circuit to provide a huge m
Lotus Formula One driver Romain Grosjean of France in the team garage during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend. While the team had experienced difficulty in paying for their tyres, Grosjean finished third at the Hungaroring circuit to provide a huge moral boost, just before bailiffs arrived to impound the cars and other equipment.PHOTO: REUTERS

Ecclestone's $3.2m lifeline just a stepping stone as he urges swift permanent solution with Renault

LONDON • The Lotus trucks were heading to Monza on Tuesday as the financially troubled Formula One team moved to calm fears they might not make it to this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

Despite the positive news, confirmed by a spokesman, the British-based team will still face an uncertain future, with their longer-term hopes seemingly pinned on former owners Renault riding to the rescue.

Speculation about the team's survival has grown since last month's Belgian Grand Prix, where bailiffs moved to impound the cars after Frenchman Romain Grosjean had finished a strong third.

That intervention was a result of legal action taken by former reserve driver Charles Pic for an alleged breach of contract.

Lotus also had a problem paying for tyres before Friday practice in Hungary, after seeing off a winding-up petition in Britain, and other bills have reportedly gone unpaid.

Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in The Times newspaper on Tuesday as saying he had stepped in to ensure that the wage bill of £1.5 million (S$3.2 million) for the 400 staff was paid.

"I thought I should cover the wages of the people there to make sure they were all right and so that Lotus would at least get to Spa and, hopefully, to Italy," said the 84-year-old Briton. "But they really need to make progress with Renault now to make sure everything is okay."

Renault, the team's former owners who won titles with the Enstone-based outfit in 2005 and 2006, are assessing their Formula One options and whether to quit entirely or become more involved in the sport.

Currently engine suppliers to Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso, the French outfit are tipped to retake control of Lotus.

While that would be welcomed by staff at the Enstone factory in central England, with optimistic reports in the media about the progress of talks, Renault have kept tight-lipped about their intentions.

"We would welcome them back with open arms obviously," Lotus' trackside operations director Alan Permane said after the race in Spa. "We could have done an awful lot better this season with a little bit more investment and funding.

"Having said that, our owners have kept us going. Through the hard times, they've put money in. They've kept the team running and kept us coming to the races."

Renault are looking to ditch their role as engine suppliers to Red Bull to revert to a factory team.

Their choice appears to be Lotus, the team they sold to Genii Capital, a private equity business, five years ago. So far, there is no progress in the negotiations that would result in Renault acquiring a controlling 65 per cent of the team for an estimated £65 million.

But, unless there is progress soon, the money seems as though it will run out. Genii, with partner Andrew Ruhan, a British property developer, is clearly unwilling to keep stumping up for a team saddled with huge debts and a list of nervous creditors.

It is also unlikely Ecclestone will continue to step into the breach if he believes that there is no hope of a settlement with Renault.

That could mean the loss of another Formula One team to add to Caterham and Marussia, who collapsed last October.

REUTERS, THE TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2015, with the headline 'Lotus tipped to race at Monza'. Print Edition | Subscribe