Lotus F1 team says money troubles were blown out of proportion
|By Jonathan Noble||Monday, April 28th 2014, 09:53 GMT|
Lotus owner Gerard Lopez says the Formula 1 team's financial worries have been blown out of proportion, and he has no doubts that its future is secure.
The Enstone-based outfit endured a troubled time at the end of 2013, after money that was promised to it from investors Quantum Motorsports did not arrive.
The failure of those funds to materialise caused trouble for the team's cash flow, and prompted a tumultuous winter where it lost team principal Eric Boullier to McLaren and it failed to get its car ready for the first pre-season test.
Those problems forced Lopez to restructure the way the team was run - which has included a downsizing of staff numbers - but he is adamant that the situation inside the team is now better than it has been for a while.
"It's a question of how you depict things," explained Lopez, who attended his first race of the season at the Chinese Grand Prix.
"When the money was supposed to arrive, actually did arrive but had to be sent back because of issues related to those people, all that did was delay a number of payments.
"When you are setting up a cash flow, like with any other company, you expect certain amounts of money to hit your account at a particular time.
"And when they don't, the management has to turn around and inform the company, and unblock funds.
"If this was a normal company, and a customer hasn't paid you, well you have an issue and you deal with it. But because this is F1, it gets blown a bit out of proportion."
STAFFING NUMBERS CUT
As well as ensuring that Lotus' finances are no longer exposed to such cash flow issues, Lopez has cut its overheads by reducing staffing numbers.
He says that a lot of the 95 staff that have been let go were part of an expanded design team that was needed while the outfit ran a parallel design project for its 2014 car.
"I know there are teams running at 700 people," said Lopez. "We don't, we're running at 470, which is substantially more than over half the teams here.
"If you look at it from a half-empty glass, it's like 'those guys have lost it, they've lost so many people'. But from a half-full glass perspective we still have 150 people more than most of the teams around here.
"So it's a question of which way you look at it. It's probably been less tumultuous from the inside that it has from the outside."
BOULLIER DEPARTURE A BLOW
Lopez has admitted that losing Boullier to McLaren was not ideal, but says the team has shifted staff responsibilities to make up for the loss.
Rather than appointing a direct replacement, Lopez says that he is now in much closer communication with technical director Nick Chester and trackside operations director Alan Permane.
"With Eric leaving, his role was very much a communications role between the racing team and people like Nick and so forth," said Lopez.
"What we've done is put Nick and Alan together much more, so they now speak directly rather than using Eric.
"Eric I miss, because he was my communication channel into the team. But what I do is I now go more directly to Nick and Alan. It's less disruptive than one could think."
Lotus has yet to score a point so far this season due to reliability problems, but a major step forward from engine partner Renault in China has given it cause for optimism.