Bahar: Lotus sought Fernandes tie-up
|By Jonathan Noble||Wednesday, December 15th 2010, 19:00 GMT|
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has revealed his company did try and broker a deal for an official tie-up with Tony Fernandes in Formula 1 - but says the conditions put to them on the table made it a no-brainer to go and back Renault instead.
With F1 still facing the prospect of there being two Lotus names in the sport next year, Bahar has offered some extra insight into why his company chose to become title sponsor and shareholder of Renault rather than throwing its weight behind Lotus Racing.
Speaking at the RAC Club in London during a Lotus media lunch on Wednesday, Bahar said that his company had originally sought a solution with Fernandes - but said when a deal with Renault was on offer for around a third of the price it was obvious which route had to be taken.
"A question that has come up many times was why did you not find an amicable solution with Tony Fernandes? Well we tried," he said.
"Let me just say when the counter proposals are so ridiculous and absurd, it makes no sense to continue these discussions. And if you can go with a top five team that is maybe one third of the cost that was asked by the other side, then that makes sense.
"We do not have the financial resources, and we don't have the time to invest in a newly formed team that really deserves respect. By buying into an existing one which is well financed, which has the right partners in there, it was just the more conservative approach and we just wanted to fight at the top end of the grid. And that should not sound disrespectful to anyone, but we have such an ambitious plan ahead of us, we don't want to lose time and we want to support the brand out there."
When asked by AUTOSPORT whether he shared Fernandes' view that it would have been a perfect solution for the two entities to tie up, Bahar said: "Yes, I think so. If the price had been right and if some conditions would have been more realistic, then I believe this would have been the right approach.
"We were not afraid of partnering with Mr Fernandes, but as I said, there is one way that Lotus does business - and this is getting involved and not just putting the logo on the car. We need to be involved in the management. We need to take decisions together. We need to fund it together as well, which is fine, but it cannot just be that we are seen as a sponsor, we pay the cheque and everything else is run by someone else. That is something that we will never do. And even if it is a public perception, it will never happen.
"But, as I said before, if we have to take a detour for one year or two years in order to reach control, then we will take this into consideration as long as our brand is respectfully presented and we have the maximum benefits of it for our support and sales. But it was not just the price. There were many elements that meant we could not find the deal."
Bahar has hit back at any suggestions that he had deliberately gone out of his way to scupper Fernandes' F1 ambitions
"Although the public perception is I am the bad guy and I am doing everything I can to sabotage them, this is complete nonsense," he explained. "You cannot imagine that Dany Bahar can influence prime ministers, the board of Lotus, the board of Proton, the shareholders. There are so many people involved and it would not make sense.
"We have to see it a little bit from a reality point of view. We believe F1 is a very good way to flag our brand values for now and for the future. It is the right transportation if you want - and absolutely 100 per cent what we communicate for the future. From that perspective everyone is in agreement."
Bahar also says he is optimistic that a solution will be found between Fernandes and Lotus parent company Proton about the use of the Team Lotus name in F1, which will end once and for all current confusion over the brand's activities in F1.
"The legal battle is what it is," he said. "Will be there be four Lotus cars or two Lotus teams out there? I have no idea. My personal opinion is I don't believe so. I think our shareholders and the other team will probably get to an amicable solution, I hope so, but if not there is always a court who will decide who is right and who is wrong.
"We do not crave to be Team Lotus. We do not want to be Team Lotus. We do not want to change our name to Team Lotus. That is not us. It was a glorious past.
"The Lotus Group was a separate company, but it is part of Mr Chapman's empire if you want. We see it as part of the car manufacturer, whether it was used to support sales or to raise money - it was under one umbrella and they were two different companies. Maybe some formalities will confirm that.
"That is why we believe Team Lotus should be kept where it is. It is a glorious brand. They achieved a lot and they should rest in peace. We as Group Lotus and Chapman himself used Lotus to promote the cars, and we will be doing the same. We are not doing anything wrong; it is what the brand has always done. We see it as a marketing tool.
"The only thing we believe we have a right to is to the name Lotus. If you see any car, whether it is a F1 car or a road car, that is our right - we believe this is the right way for the brand and our lawyers believe we are on strong legal ground saying that Lotus is a brand that belongs to Lotus Cars. So we are not fighting to be Team Lotus.
"We want to use our brand as much as possible, we have a very big promotional budget for the next few years in F1, based around our existing cars, and that is all we want to do. I don't believe any judge in any court in the world can stop us from promoting our brand in any sport, so the fight is not us against Team Lotus."