LONDON (Reuters) - The Lotus trucks were heading to Monza on Tuesday as the financially-troubled Formula One team moved to calm fears they might not make it to this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Despite the positive news, confirmed by a spokesman, the British-based team still face an uncertain future with their longer-term hopes seemingly pinned on former owners Renault riding to the rescue.
Speculation about the team’s survival has grown since last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, where bailiffs moved to impound the cars after Frenchman Romain Grosjean had finished a strong third.
That intervention was a result of legal action taken by former reserve driver Charles Pic for an alleged breach of contract.
Lotus also had a problem paying for their tyres before Friday practise in Hungary, after seeing off a winding-up petition in Britain, and other bills have reportedly gone unpaid.
Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in the Times newspaper on Tuesday as saying he had stepped in to ensure staff were paid.
“I thought I should cover the wages of the people there to make sure they were all right and so that Lotus would at least get to Spa and, hopefully, to Italy,” said the 84-year-old Briton.
“But they really need to make progress with Renault now to make sure everything is OK,” he added.
Renault, the team’s former owners who won titles with the Enstone-based outfit in 2005 and 2006, are assessing their Formula One options and whether to quit entirely or become more involved in the sport.
Currently engine supplier to Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso, the French manufacturer is tipped to retake control of Lotus.
While that would be welcomed by staff at the Enstone factory in central England, with optimistic reports in the media about the progress of talks, Renault have kept tight-lipped about their intentions.
“We would welcome them back with open arms obviously,” Lotus’s trackside operations director Alan Permane said after the race in Spa.
”We could have done an awful lot better this season with a little bit more investment and funding. Having said that our owners have kept us going. Through the hard times they’ve put money in.
“They’ve kept the team running and kept us coming to the races.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris