Lotus, Lotus, the Beatles and a solution!

I had a lovely relaxing weekend not really thinking much about Formula 1, but instead weeping over the crucifixion of many classic Beatles songs on X Factor on Saturday night. The greatest, most influential band on earth were paid a “tribute” by the supposed up and coming musical talent of the UK which seemed, to me, more like a slap in the face to the genius of Lennon and McCartney.

Of course, the very fact we had a “Beatles week” on X Factor at all was thanks to a marketing campaign around the news that after decades of arguments, it would appear that Apple (the makers of computers, phones and mp3 players) and Apple (a record company established by The Beatles in the 1960s) have finally buried the hatchet as for the first time in history one can now download Beatles songs from itunes. Hoorah!

And it got me thinking, and thus I tweeted: If Apple and Apple have kissed and made up, there’s hope yet for Lotus and Lotus. All you need is love!

And so my mind flipped back to Formula 1… and Lotus.

Autosport.com yesterday carried a fantastic interview with Mike Gascoyne, in which he described himself to be “perplexed” by the entire Team Lotus Vs Group Lotus mess. I, for one, couldn’t agree more.

Gascoyne makes many salient points in the interview, which I heavily suggest you read, but perhaps the one with which I agree the most is the following: “They seem to have announced that they’re going to join every racing series around the world, and the only question is who’s going to pay for it?”

“Because they seem to want to do every racing series that there is, and for a loss-making car company, that seems to be slightly perplexing. But if that’s what they want to do, good luck to them.”

Now I’m not overly fussed over who is going to pay for Group Lotus’ foray into motorsport, but I agree with Gazza in that Group Lotus’ motorsport strategy seems to lack any semblance of structure or sense.

It is as if they’ve just looked at global motorsport and said, “Ooh that looks fun let’s do that. And that looks good too. And that. Yeah, and that too.”

A Lotus? No, that'll be an ART...

And so it is that we now have a bonkers situation in which Group Lotus is due to sponsor Renault in Formula 1 next season, ART in GP2 and GP3 and KV Racing in Indycar. But why? I mean seriously, think about it… what’s the point in all this?

Did anybody give Lotus any credit this year when Takuma Sato ran their colours in Indycar? Did the results show Takuma Sato in a Lotus? No, they showed Sato in a KV Racing car. Next season, when I commentate on GP2 and GP3 will I call the ART team Lotus? No I bloody won’t. Because I don’t call Addax, Barwa. I never called Racing Engineering Fat Burner. So why should I rename ART, with six glorious years of GP2 history and a double championship in GP3 anything other than ART? Why should I suddenly start naming them by their sponsor?

And in Formula 1… when have you ever heard McLaren referred to as Vodafone? Ferrari as Marlboro? Williams as AT&T? So why will anybody call Renault Lotus next year? Simple answer is, they won’t. Quite apart from the fact that the public good will in the paddock surrounding Lotus rests very firmly with Tony Fernandes, I have never known anybody name a team by their sponsor rather than the team name.

I first got an inkling that the Group Lotus strategy was messed up when they announced they’d be sponsoring ART in GP2 and then all the Renault F1 chat began. Because, if Dany Bahar had thought about it, if they went in and invested in Renault F1, they’d get the exposure of a GP2 team for peanuts because DAMS carries the Renault livery in GP2. So they’ve gone and wasted all that investment in ART when they could have had it for a fraction in DAMS. I mean, it is a small thing, but it just shows there’s been very little forethought in what Group Lotus is doing.

Group Lotus has been riding off the back of Team Lotus ever since the Malaysian’s and Proton bought the company and suddenly realised it didn’t include the motor racing arm of the Lotus brand. There’s an excellent website on the history of the subject here.

What I do not understand is why Group Lotus has come in all guns blazing, when it could quite simply and for a fraction of the cost and the hassle, formed an official alliance with Tony Fernandes, Mike Gascoyne and Team Lotus whereby the car building arm of Lotus could have benefitted from what the racing team was doing. What we have right now suits neither.

So are the Malaysians trying to force Fernandes into buying Proton and Group Lotus? Frankly Fernandes isn’t that stupid. He won’t get forced into something he doesn’t want to do. And if that is what they’re trying to do then I can just see Fernandes digging in his heels even harder. He’s a very clever man and a very passionate man, and I think he is going to fight this thing until the bitter end. And I hope he does. Because he’s got huge support. Factor in also that Fernandes has paid an as yet undisclosed sum to David Hunt for the right to use the Team Lotus name next season… money which could have been spent on R&D… money which for a small team is critical.

The history of Team Lotus is the story of innovation and excellence. It is a story of mavericks, of legends and heroes. It is not the story of short cuts or ponying off other people’s work. Simply calling a team Lotus does not make it so.

Lotus Racing showed in 2010 that it was serious about Formula 1, serious about motorsport and serious about the heritage and history of the name that it was proud to carry. It wanted to be appraised on its own merits and make its own way.

That it now stands to lose its name because of some stupid marketing ploy which doesn’t make any sense in the wider world and just makes Group Lotus look petty and bitter, is a huge shame. There are a lot of people in this sport who are more than a little disgusted with the manner in which Group Lotus has approached this entire subject.

But if Bahar and Group Lotus want to go down this path, I have an idea… all Fernandes and his team need to do is to bring in a title sponsor which has a name that is, by some huge coincidence, the same as the name they look set to lose.

Lotus Bakeries in the UK and Lotus sanitary products come instantly to mind. Both logos would look great in gold against a black background as per the JPS stylings the team has said they’ll be forced to adopt next year with Group taking the green and yellow to Enstone. Group Lotus could not claim a naming conflict as neither company is motorsport affiliated. The companies wouldn’t even have to bring any money – simply supply the team with biscuits for their coffees or toilet paper for their motorhome. Lotus gets to call itself Lotus and there’s nothing Group Lotus can do about it.

A silly idea? No more silly and petty than what Group Lotus is doing, and I know which outfit would get the most support for its actions.

Whatever happens next year, I know which team I’ll be calling Lotus.

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28 thoughts on “Lotus, Lotus, the Beatles and a solution!

  1. Great peice and I totally agree, except for one point. There is one little team named after its sponsor – Red Bull! I know, the own and sponsor, but it’s a great piece of marketing to get everyone repeating the brand name when refering to them!

  2. Thought you’d written Lotus on the Air Asia logo for a moment, until I saw it was a bakery. That would fit in really well on Tony Fernandes’ cars.

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  4. Not forgetting of course that Lotus are apparently also pushing to run the GT2 and GT4 categories at Le Mans next year.
    Good luck to them, but I’ve seen way too many companies crash and burn over the years by expanding far too quickly.

    • A good point Leigh, and it is also worth remembering that ART has pulled out of F3 to have a go at Le Mans… will they do it with Lotus? If they go it alone, then there’s another wasted alliance for Lotus.

      • Y’know, I never put the two together when I read the ART story on their F3 exit / Le Mans run.
        Also, do you think when ART withdrew their F1 application, Group Lotus were signalling to ART in the background?

          • Interesting. Makes sense I suppose and gives them European base to work out of.

            This IndyCar deal is supposedly an engine building one, which has never really been Lotus’ forte.
            Kevin Kalkhoven has been remarkably quiet of late and there was zero mention of Cosworth in last week’s press conference.
            I wonder is this another point of expansion.

            At this point, Lotus makes me head-butt walls.

            As a big IndyCar fan, I am not looking forward to an entire year of Ho-Pin Tung puns from US commentators, but I do hope he is at least Fazzt.

  5. Will, if you want to be professional you must call teams by their real names. Next year the team that used to be ART Grand Prix will be Lotus ART Team. Just like KV Racing in IndyCar will be Lotus KV. And those are not just naming sponsors like Vodafone McLaren, this is a technical and branding partnership that will show up on TV graphics and on official results.

    Martin Haven always calls the Spanish GP2 outfit by it’s two naming sponsors Barwa and Addax. I guess it’s because it sounds good unlike Mercedes GP Petronas Team. And what else are you going to call Team Air Asia other than the company that it’s named after? Team Lotus?

    I don’t quite undestand what the fuss about Lotus wanting to protect and use their own name is all about. Bahar wants to bring Lotus back to motorsport because that was where Colin Chapman build its brand. There are no Formula Tasman or open Formula 2 anymore, so GP2 and GP3 must do. Lotus also goes back to Indy and Le Mans, where they will build their own cars but next years partnerships with ART and KV will not cost them lots of money since team principles that run those two outfits are Bahar’s mates. The whole Chapman’s Lotus/Lotus and Fernandes’ 1Malaysia/Lotus saga is F1 theater at its finest. But Fernandes seems to have wrapped almost all F1 journos and most of the fans around his palm by calling his team Lotus before the guys who will bring the real Chapman’s Lotus back really even got settled down to Norfolk.

    • Technical partnerships I get. Naming for naming’s sake I don’t. Yes Lotus will from 2012 bring its own engines and mods to Indy, and good for them. The GP2 and GP3 thing I don’t understand. And the F1 deal seems primarily to stick it to Fernandes, and that I do not like.

      Lotus Group NEVER had the right to use the Lotus name in motorsport. That was always Team Lotus, an entity which came under the ownership of Hunt in the 1990s and which he has now sold to Fernandes. And if you need to know where the Chapman family’s allegiance rests, ask yourself if it is Tony Fernandes or Dany Bahar who was presented with Colin’s cap as a recognition of what he was aiming to achieve with the Lotus name… it was Fernandes.

      As I said, none of this does any good for either party. It’s just one big, sad mess.

      • Clive gave the hat to Fernandes when he was still working with Group Lotus. That same Group Lotus that now he and David Hunt claim has no rights to their own trademarked name in F1. After Fernandes announced he made deal with Hunt about “Team Lotus” name there was a rumour in French media about how Chapman had written to Ecclestone about pulling his support from Tony. And indeed after Lotus had made statements that Fernandes had no right to use Lotus name in F1 anymore, Chapman was present in Paris Auto Show where Lotus unveiled their new cars.

        And naming a team for namings sake is excatly what Fernandes did. When he entered F1 he owned nothing called Lotus, no airline, no toilet paper, no nothing. The only reason we have this mess is because Tony wanted to name his F1 team Lotus. The name that he had nothing to do with and now that Lotus wants to enter motorsport with people they feel they can trust the real ACBC badge and Lotus name, he his playing a martyre and throwing a “danica” that wont do anything to change the fact that his team will no longer have any connections to Chapman’s Lotus except for the hat that Clive unfortunately can’t get back.

        And there seems to be a lot misinformation going around this subject. For example I’ve read that Proton started to use Lotus’ F1 records after they bought Lotus Cars. That is incorrect. Lotus Cars have used F1 and motorsport legacy in it’s marketing since the 60’s and 70’s or as we might know them “the Colin Chapman years.” All David Hunt needs to do is go and pick up old car magazine and find a Lotus ad and see that Lotus Cars is not wrong when they say that Lotus has won World Championships and Indy 500.

      • What I struggle to understand is how Lotus is saying they will supply engines to a team/teams! They’ve never produced an engine of their own that I know of in the past, so how are they going to suddenly start producing engines now?

  6. Ahhh, see your mistake was actually watching the Beatles “tribute” episode of X Factor. Normally I quite enjoy wasting an hour or two of my weekend watching them murder songs that I don’t particularly care about, but when I realised they were going to be attacking my very favourite songs in all the world, I switched off. So I can now try and pretend that the whole thing never happened.

    Also, the biscuit/loo roll thing is pure brilliance. Let’s get them to do that.

  7. Just out of curiosity I went and checked Companies House and there are just under 300 active limited companies with the name Lotus in the title.

    A few of my favourites were Lotus PR, Lotus Films, Lotus And Frog, Lotus Care Home, Lotus Diamond, Lotus Energy (that has bags of Red Bull potential :D), Lotus Lightweight Structures, Lotus Meals, Lotus On Track (Ooooo), Lotus Senior Living, Lotus Wills and Trusts. The possibilities are limitless.

    Oh and there was Group Lotus, Lotus Group International, Team Lotus and Team Lotus International, of course. Most interestingly there was Lotus Group Ltd which appears to be a holiday company! Now wouldn’t it be amusing if someone tied up with that company?

  8. Brilliant article Will and why aren’t you running someone’s marketing?

    I would count watching one minute of The X Factor or any of that ilk of “talent” shows as a complete waste of time. In fact the few seconds I’ve spent even mentioning them has seriously damaged my karma.

    David Hunt needs to get clear whether he deserved to be paid that money by Tony Fernandes or whether he is a con artist. That seems to be the main substantial point at the moment, apart from all the rather dull branding issues.

    Personally I just like the look of the Lotus Racing/Air Asia/1Malaysia guys, they seem to have fun and Tony has an infectious “people manager” style. Whether Proton are the Evil Empire or not, I’ll have to wait till F1 2011 to find out.

  9. Will – great article, love the idea of stepping sideways! Seems a few other people are starting to find out the new broom at Lotus Cars isn’t quite as friendly as the old one….

  10. On a couple of unrelated notes;

    a) anyone notice the Beatles albums on iTunes seem to be more expensive than the hard copies you can find in many stores and;

    b) who doesn’t already own the songs in some fashion..?

  11. Dont forget Lotus Notes software. This company was puchased by IBM some years back and never any visible issues raised by ‘Lotus Cars’.
    They should do the right thing and sponsor Lotus Racing – being it all back together where it belongs. And buy Classic Team Lotus so then they really own the history.

  12. There are a few things bothering me about all this BS regarding Lotus currantly! The main one is that when I followed and supported the REAL Lotus outfit, it was the brainchild of Collin Chapman, an Englishman, and he came up with some very clever and inovative ideas that other competitors had to copy, also Collin’s team were always at or near the pointy end of the grids and every racing car the team built was concieved with input from Collin. For these reasons I’ve been struggling to accept/understand that there is a car called Lotus that isn’t a Lotus, and the team is owned by a Mexican (or whatever he is), and the guy that owns it doesn’t have any input into the design of the car or the running of raceday activities! Everything’s all stuffed up!! I only want to see the Lotus name on cars that are real Lotuses, and that means classics now, everything else is counterfeit!!!!!
    PK (NZ).

  13. It’s not surprising that Group Lotus wanted to invest in Renault instead of Team Lotus. Renault is much more competitive should fight for podiums (and possibly even race wins). They don’t have the time to wait for Tony’s team to get near the front (or even into midfield). Though it would be better if there would be only one team with Lotus in it’s name.

    IMHO Tony Fernandes is doing more or less what Gropu Lotus has been accused – trying to claim Chapman’s heritage for commercial purposes. His team has nothing to do with the historic Team Lotus. Just like Renault F1 Team, which BTW has it’s own heritage, including WDC and WCC wins (Toleman – Benetton – Renault, that’s 30 years).
    The “real” Team Lotus doesn’t exist any more and nothing will change this fact. I’m surprised that people are falling for all this marketing nonsense so easily.
    Fernandes is just more likeable than Bahar and Group Lotus, but that’s all.

    The concerns about Group Lotus/Proton finances are serious though.

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