MARCH 21, 2011
Fernandes and Hunt do battle as Lotus case begins
As the dispute over the right to use the Lotus name in Formula 1 began today in London's High Court, it seems that there is also an internal dispute on the Team Lotus side, between team owner Tony Fernandes and David Hunt, from whom Fernandes claimed he had bought the rights to Team Lotus.
Fernandes' 1 Malaysia Racing Team competed in its first season of F1 last year under the Lotus Racing banner, under licence from the Proton-owned Group Lotus. The original deal is believed to have been of five years duration but Group Lotus renounced the agreement during the first year, allegedly over a marketing issue. Fernandes claims that it was a trifling matter and that the agreement was unlawfully terminated.
Nevertheless, he announced at the Singapore GP last September that he had purchased the rights to the Team Lotus name from Hunt - which he claimed was always a separate entity from Lotus Cars, back since Colin Chapman's day. Hunt claims these rights dating back to 1994, when he was involved in a bid to save Team Lotus, which failed.
Proton purchased Group Lotus in 1996 and were later said to be embarrassed to find that the purchase did not include the Team Lotus rights. Group Lotus tried to prove that Hunt's tenure of them had lapsed due to non-use, but was never successful in legally establishing that.
It now appears, however, that Fernandes has not completed the Team Lotus purchase and, says Hunt, has reneged on a deal struck in January over payment.
"What angers me is that I have, in good faith, worked extremely hard on the build-up to the hearing because I believed Tony would honour our January agreement," Hunt told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "He's apparently 'changed his mind' at the 11th hour, by his own admission, now that I've done so much work on his company's behalf, and he's trying to renegotiate by offering new terms which are, frankly, ludicrous. If he doesn't honour our agreement then regrettably I don't see why I should continue to provide assistance and this trial won't be the last battle he's facing, even if he wins."
Team Lotus, meanwhile has claimed that Hunt had tried to renegotiate the agreement, which it isn't prepared to do.
With Group Lotus sponsoring the Genii Capital-owned Renault team in F1 and Fernandes set to run under the Team Lotus banner, the case and the lack of an it of court settlement means that it nothing looks like stopping two Lotus-affiliated teams )in varying forms) fielding cars in the 2011 season opener in Melbourne on Sunday...