Lotus departed Formula 1 in 1994 after costs became too great, but with Formula 1 president and CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s attempts to make Formula 1 competition less expensive, the storied British marque will return for the 2010 season.
Prior to its withdrawal from Formula 1 in 1994, Lotus was a dominant team. It won seven constructors’ championships and six drivers’ championships and employed some of the sport’s most famous drivers, including Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, and Ayrton Senna.
“We are not just a small new team; we have the possibilities to be a very substantial team. And the FIA recognize that, combined with the name and that we’re also a team based outside Europe,” said Lotus F1 team technical director Mike Gascoyne.
The Lotus F1 team will initially be based in Norfolk, England, but will eventually move its headquarters to Malaysia, where Lotus’ owner, Proton, is based. The Lotus F1 headquarters will eventually move to a purpose-built facility located at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit, currently the second race on the F1 calendar.
With its late entry into the 2010 Formula 1 season, Lotus has a lot of ground to make up in developing its 2010 car. “Next year will be a huge challenge… we will be releasing the car late, and that has reliability aspects,” said Gascoyne. “But we’ll target being the best of the new cars on the grid and I would hope by mid-season we are challenging the bottom rung of the current teams. That’s achievable.”
The recent sale of the BMW Sauber team to Qadbak Investments, a Swiss-based investment firm, put that team as the 14th on the roster, meaning it is the first reserve,which allowed Lotus to take the last confirmed grid position. The FIA is working on expanding the F1 grid to 14 teams to allow the Qadbak Sauber team to compete.
Lotus is not the only new team to join the starting grid for 2010. Three other newcomers — US F1, Campos GP, and Manor — will also line up against well-established teams. With the topsy-turvy season this year, and no refueling next year, the next season may see the non-manufacturer based teams perform well again.