LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One was unlikely to have two rival Lotus teams on the starting grid next season despite heading that way at present, said Renault team owner Gerard Lopez.
Former champions Renault announced on Wednesday that they would be renamed Lotus Renault GP in 2011 with Malaysian-owned sportscar maker Group Lotus joining as title sponsor and eventual co-owners.
The move, following French manufacturer Renault’s sale of its remaining 25 percent stake in the team, pits them against Renault-powered Team Lotus entered by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes.
The dispute over the use of the Lotus name is heading for the London High Court sometime next year but Lopez said he expected it to be resolved before the start of the season in March.
“As far as having four (Lotus) cars next year on the grid, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he told Reuters in an interview.
“I tend to be a positive person, so I would say that nobody has anything to win from this — except maybe Group Lotus as having four cars running for the same brand and only being involved financially in two of them.
“The natural course of things should be that whoever is the Lotus brand should race as Lotus and whoever isn’t, and actually had asked for a licence to do so, should race as something else,” he added.
“I’m certainly not going to be the one standing and making that decision because I have no power to do so... (but) I don’t think there are going to be two teams of the same name and four cars of the same colour.”
Fernandes’s team competed as Lotus Racing this year under a licence, since revoked, from Lotus Group’s parent Proton. The aviation and music entrepreneur has since acquired the rights to the Team Lotus name from David Hunt.
Hunt, brother of the late world champion James, had owned the name since the original outfit folded in 1994.
Both teams have said they intend to race in black and gold liveries next year.
While Fernandes made his announcement about the colour scheme before Renault, Lopez said his team’s livery had been firmed up internally more than two months ago when talks with Lotus Group gained momentum.
“Images of these cars have been running around our marketing department probably for the better part of eight weeks... so it’s kind of who got there first, right?”
Lopez said Fernandes’s team had done a great job to end the season as the best of the three newcomers but were different to Lotus Renault.
“I don’t see both teams aspiring to the same thing,” he said. “And as a result of that I think it’s pretty childish to want to emulate colours and do this that and the other.”
Lopez said his Genii Capital had begun talks with Proton and Group Lotus, who will now take a major stake in Renault F1, more than a year ago on cooperation unrelated to Formula One.
“We are doing a deal with Group Lotus and we are taking the Lotus brand racing in Formula One. And that’s it. It’s not complicated,” he said.
“There is only one car manufacturer that builds Lotus cars, and that’s Group Lotus, and all we are doing is promoting that brand.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ken Ferris