Mike Stevens | Sep 16, 2009

LOTUS IS SET to make a stunning return to the Formula 1 paddock after the FIA announced it has awarded the 13th license for the 2010 season to the historic manufacturer.

The Malaysian-owned sportscar manufacturer outgunned BMW Sauber for the final place on the grid to complete the revival of one of Formula 1’s most enduring names, albeit in unlikely circumstances.

The new Lotus F1 team will be headed by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, owner of Williams F1 sponsor Air Asia, while former Renault and Toyota engineer Mike Gascoyne has been appointed technical director.

Gascoyne was involved in an earlier attempt to restore the Team Lotus name alongside Litespeed in a non-factory backed operation only for the FIA to overlook the outfit’s bid to gain a place on the grid.

Despite the setback, the Briton persevered with his plans, reaching an agreement with Proton – Lotus’ owners – the Malaysian Government, Petronas and Fernandes to found a Lotus factory squad.

Gascoyne told Autosport: “I have had nearly a year out, which has been frustrating, but this is now a tremendous challenge.

“But with the team that Tony Fernandes has put together, and the backing of the Malaysian government, it has the opportunity to be something really big. We are aiming to take this team to the very top level in the long term

“One of the good things with Tony Fernandes and the Malaysian backing is that it is a very well-funded thing.

“We have got a very big aero programme in place with Fondtech and Jean-Claude Migeot, and we will be expanding that. The first half of the season will be tight, but it is a great challenge.”

f1_lotus_01

Although the team will initially be based in Norfolk, UK, only 10 miles from the Lotus Cars manufacturing plant, it will later shift its facilities to Malaysia and operate from the Sepang International Circuit.

Lotus F1 will employ V8 engines supplied by Cosworth, making the squad the fourth to ink an agreement with the returning engine maker for next season.

BMW Sauber meanwhile, has been placed on a standby list, with the FIA set to liaise with existing teams regarding the possibility of expanding the grid further.

The team was sold overnight to Swiss foundation Qadbak, ensuring Hinwil-based squad remains in contention for a future F1 berth, and with Renault’s future believed to be clouded by uncertainty, there is a realistic likelihood of Sauber appearing on the grid next year.

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