MARCH 20, 2013

Lack of title sponsor could hamper Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus' bid to fight for the World Championship could be held back by a lack of financial resources to beat Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes.

The British based team was forced to start the season without a title sponsor, after American giant Honeywell pulled out of a deal just days before the launch of the new E21. The team was forced to a last minute adjustment, covering the red areas of the chassis with Genii Capital's name and also using the first name of both drivers on their cars respective air boxes.

The red colour seen in the side pods and right behind the drivers' heads was reserved for Honeywell, in a deal that looked set to pay 50 million Euros to Lotus for the title sponsorship deal, but now there is no hope the Americans will have a change of heart, in spite of Raikkinen's sensational victory in Melbourne.

The normally taciturn Finn admitted his concerns about the team's ability to keep up the development pace if new sponsors don't come into the team, minutes after his win in Australia: "There was a big question mark last year if we could keep up with the good teams, because we had a smaller budget, but we did quite well in 2012. For sure we have the people and the tools to do the job, but the money is the problem. For sure we don't have the budget Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes had. I have no doubts we have the people and the tool, but more money will help us to fight with the big teams. We have good plans, if we can do them it could go nicely but one thing could change the whole tear and things can go downhill from there. We need to do like last year, do our best and hope we get the resources to continue developing."

Team Principal Eric Boullier tried to play down the magnitude of the problem, explaining that, "we have to move into new markets on top of the current ones. We have to develop a new marketing strategy, but we have a lot of companies we are working with that are interested to be back in F1, to use the drivers and F1 platform for sponsorship and marketing activation. There is a lot to come. There is no other global sport like F1. I see only positives because today every business in the world tends to be global, and you need to have a global support. We have a lot of contacts. Many sponsors have joined us, some new ones and some investors too, so it's good."

For now Lotus is having to make do with a budget that is 50 million Euros smaller than originally planned, but the team's marketing department is working flat out to finalize some deals before the Chinese Grand Prix, to give a boost to Raikkonen's title hopes and allow the technical team, led by James Allison, to carry on with the development of the E21 as originally planned.