Remember what happened on November 13, 1994? If you were a Lotus F1 fan you were probably preparing to don your black arm band.
Through the streets of Adelaide, Mika Salo and Alex Zanardi were driving their Lotus-Mugen Hondas in the Australian Grand Prix. It was the 491st Lotus GP race start since their debut outing at Monaco 35 years earlier. And the very last for the marque founded by Colin Chapman. Or so we thought.
Until today, that is. This morning the FIA announced that the Lotus name will be back on the F1 starting grid in 2010 as the 13th entry in the world championship, taking the place on the grid lost to BMW Sauber after the German car maker decided to quit the sport at the end of the year.
In fact the FIA has wisely left the door ajar with comments to the effect that it had also received an ‘impressive’ application from Sauber, but, given the uncertainty of its future ownership decided to go with Lotus.
The new project has been backed by a company called 1Malaysia F1 Team Sdn Bhd. Its team principal will be Tony Fernandes, the founder and CEO of the Malaysian Tune group which owns Air Asia. The technical director will be Mike Gascoyne and the team will use Cosworth V8 engines as part of the deal. No drivers have yet been mentioned, but it is early days, of course.
The team will initially be based in Norfolk a few miles from the Lotus road car headquarters, at a factory which was originally built during the 1980s for Toyota’s initial, but stillborn, F1 project. It was subsequently used by the Bentley Le Mans project.
The new Lotus F1 programme will eventually transfer to a new base at the Sepang circuit in Kuala Lumpur.