Although Jacques Villeneuve has recently been named as a potential driver at the newly resurrected Lotus team, it now appears that Jarno Trulli will be named as the number one driver at that squad. According to a report in The Guardian, Trulli is expected to sign a new contract in the next few days.
The new Lotus team has no real connection with the illustrious team that was founded by Colin Chapman. The original car company founded by Chapman, Lotus Engineering, spun off Team Lotus in 1954, as a dedicated racing subsidiary, which operated under Chapman’s direction until his death in 1982. During Chapman’s era, the team won seven world championships, with drivers such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti collecting titles. Although the team continued to be reasonably competitive for a time after Chapman’s death (Aytron Senna drove for the team from 1985 to 1987), they eventually faltered without his stewardship, and went into decline during the 1990’s. They completed their last race as Team Lotus in 1994.
The original engineering company eventually morphed into the Lotus Group, a holding company comprised of Lotus Cars and Lotus Components (later Lotus Racing, Ltd.). In 1986, the Lotus Group was sold to General Motors. Since then, majority ownership has changed twice. The current majority shareholder is Proton, a Malaysian car company. The latest iteration of the holding company, Group Lotus, is now comprised of Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering.
The naming rights to the original F1 team marque, “Team Lotus,” however, are owned by David Hunt, brother of late world champion James Hunt. The new Lotus F1 team, which does not have permission to use that brand, is officially named Lotus F1 Racing.
The new team is owned in partnership by the Malaysian government and an investment consortium that includes Sepang International Circuit (which hosts the Malaysian GP), Naza Motors, AirAsia (founded by Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes) and Proton (the company that now owns Lotus Cars, from which they derive the alternate naming rights of the brand).
If Jarno Trulli ends up at Lotus, it will be deja vu all over again. The technical director at Lotus is Mike Gascoyne, who also filled that role at both Renault and Toytota when Trulli drove for those teams.