No, you're not suffering from double vision: there are, in fact, two Lotus teams lined up for the 2011 Formula 1 series. The second and latest entry, however, is actually tied to the British sports car manufacturer itself.
Group Lotus announced yesterday it had reached an agreement with Renault and Genii Capital to buy a majority stake in the Renault F1 team. Renault began selling its F1 operations to Genii in 2009, but sold the remaining stake to the firm this year. Lotus now essentially has control over the team, but Renault is contracted to continue serving as both a technical partner and an engine supplier.
The new venture is part of Lotus CEO Dany Bahar's quest to bring Lotus back to its glory days of motorsports dominance. Bahar prompted the company to become involved with the GP2 and GP3 series, pushed for more involvement (including supplying engines and aero parts) in its IndyCar operations, enter GT-series racing, and develop a Le Mans series prototype racer.
"I can think of no better platform for automotive brand communications than F1," Bahar said in a prepared statement. "We are Lotus, and we are back," concluded Bahar
There may, however, be some confusion in that communication. Lotus licensed its name and logo its to the new AirAsia-backed team, which was known as Lotus Racing during the 2010 F1 series. That team still exists, and ironically, has also turned to Renault for engines. Worse yet, both teams will use the same gold-on-black paint scheme made famous by previous Lotus-Renault F1 cars.
Spectators will need sharp eyes and a good pair of binoculars to identify one team from another. One hint may lie with each team's formal title. Group Lotus' official operations will be known as Lotus Renault GP, while the non-Lotus Lotus team calls itself Team Lotus Racing -- a historic name the team alleges it purchased the rights to last year, a claim Group Lotus has recently challenged in court.
Source: Group Lotus