gerard lopez

Lotus boss angry with Renault comments over engine payment

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Lotus owner and team principal Gerard Lopez has hit back at Renault’s Jean-Michel Jalinier after he reported in Spain that late payments from some of the teams being supplied had caused the French marque to fall behind schedule.

“On this part I must say we are not at an acceptable situation, because some of the teams are just late in payment, and at the time that you spend resources in order to catch up you cannot afford to have those non-payments,” Jalinier explained to journalists in Spain. However, he refused to name the culprits.

This caused a game of “Guess Who?” in the F1 media as to which teams had not paid on time. Renault currently supplies both Red Bull owned teams (Red Bull and Toro Rosso), who financially fall back on the sales of the energy drink, leading many to assume that they could not be at fault.

Instead, attention turned to Lotus and Caterham, who have both been struggling in recent years. Caterham CEO Cyril Abiteboul denied that his team was at fault, saying: “It’s a confidential issue but I’m happy, since I’m on time, to say that we are settled with invoices with Renault Sport F1.”

Lotus also denied the claims, and Lopez has now called on Jalinier to name the late payers instead of making ambiguous claims.

“This is why we had a meeting, because I wanted them to clarify their price,” he told Press Association.

“I said to them if they are going to say things, then name the team that is an issue. Don’t just say “teams” and then expect people to make their own judgements. We respect the arrangements we have with them.”

Lopez again denied that Lotus – who has failed to pay drivers and suppliers on time in the past – was at fault.

“If there is, it must be somebody else, but I’m not even sure there is, to be honest with you, so we’ll see,” he said. “We’ve paid up. We’re absolutely in line with them.”

Although it is unlikely Renault will come out and name the late payers, the teams do have every right to be frustrated with the comments. The automatic assumption that Lotus and Caterham were at fault is unfair on both teams, regardless of their history.

In other Lotus news, reports that Gene Haas was due to visit the team this week appeared to have been untrue. The team – in its unique style – even ran a tongue-in-cheek “Haas Watch” on Twitter.

Lotus pays homage to El Greco with Spanish GP livery

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Lotus is set to pay homage to legendary Spanish painter El Greco with a design on its livery for the race in Barcelona next weekend, which will promote an exhibition taking place to mark 400 years since his death.

El Greco was a leading figure and thinker in the Spanish renaissance, and spent the majority of his life living in Toledo. His work has stood the test of time, and Ernest Hemingway even enjoyed visiting the Metropolitan Museum in New York to view his painting “Vista de Toledo.”

In order to promote the series of events that will take place this year to celebrate his life and work, Lotus will run with a special logo on the side of its car.

“This is the first time a Formula 1 team has publicised a Spanish cultural event so prominently,” team owner and team principal Gerard Lopez commented.

“We will promote the El Greco exhibition for no commercial fee to a global TV audience of over 600 million people. Through this the legend of El Greco will be displayed in support of Spanish Culture and cultural tourism in Spain.”

Here’s what the car is set to look like for the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend:

Lotus appoints new deputy team principal

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Lotus F1 Team has confirmed the appointment of Federico Gastaldi as deputy team principal in the latest part of an ongoing management reshuffle at Enstone.

Over the past twelve months, Lotus has endured some financial strife that has coincided with a steady exodus of personnel. As well as star driver Kimi Raikkonen leaving at the end of 2013 under a cloud due to a payment dispute, the team has also lost team principal Eric Boullier, technical director James Allison, engineer Ciaron Pilbeam, aerodynamicist Dirk de Beer and media director Stephane Samson. Overall, it is thought that the team has downsized by 20% from 500 to 400 staff.

Gastaldi joined the team in 2010 (back when it was the Renault works squad) and most recently worked as director of business development at Enstone. He also worked at the base back when the team was known as Benetton. Now, he will work under team principal and team owner Gerard Lopez.

“We are pleased to announce our new deputy team principal,” Lopez said in a statement. “Federico Gastaldi has been a valued friend of the Genii and Enstone families for quite some time. His Enstone history dates back to the Benetton days. He also works with Genii on a number of projects in South America. For Lotus F1 Team, Federico was instrumental in nurturing our relationship with PDVSA and he continues to be a vital link for us with Venezuela.”

Speaking of his appointment, Gastaldi said: “It’s a great honour and I’m looking forward to it. I have a long history with Enstone with my previous role of director of business development and then before that in the Benetton days.

“The team is an exceptional place to be and the depth of talent is amazing. My approach will be to ensure we get the most out of every aspect of Enstone and harness every talent housed there.”

Lotus will be hoping that Gastaldi’s appointment can provide some kind of stability at Enstone after a tumultuous few months.

Eric Boullier leaves Lotus; Gerard Lopez in as team principal

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In a stunning development, Lotus has announced the immediate departure of team principal Eric Boullier. Replacing Boullier at that post will be team owner Gerard Lopez.

In the accompanying statement on the subject, the team added it would officially unveil its 2014 challenger, the E22, at the beginning of the first Bahrain preseason test in February and “confirm its organizational structure for 2014 ahead of this test.”

“Lotus F1 Team has never stood still and we head into what promises to be an exciting 2014 season with an innovative new car, new partners and a new management structure at Enstone,” an optimistic Lopez said in his own thoughts.

“Great things have been achieved over the past years and we need to continue this momentum…We thank Eric for all his hard work over the past four years and we are confident we can continue to fight as one of the top teams in Formula 1 over the seasons ahead.”

Boullier had been team principal for the team since the 2010 season, when it was still known as Renault. Last year, he helped the team claim a solid fourth place in the constructor’s championship.

But off-track, there was much talk about the team’s financial status – talk that was fueled by Kimi Raikkonen’s mid-season revelation that he had not been paid by Lotus; more recently, Lopez said that Raikkonen (now back at Ferrari) has received part of his 2013 salary and would get the rest in due time.

Lotus’ decision to not attend next week’s first preseason test of 2014 at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain also did nothing to stop a growing sense of unease about the team. Boullier’s sudden exit will likely only make that unease deepen further.

As for where Boullier may end up, multiple reports including those from British F1 broadcaster Sky Sports (who says that Boullier left Lotus on his own accord) and the UK’s Telegraph newspaper have linked the Frenchman to McLaren, which launched its new MP4-29 earlier this morning.

With Ron Dennis promising changes after he returned to the CEO post in Woking, the future of current McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has been debated.

It bears noting that Whitmarsh was not quoted in team statements regarding today’s MP4-29 launch or yesterday’s promotion of Stoffel Vandoorne to reserve driver.

Now it appears that F1 observers will be waiting to see if Dennis indeed replaces Whitmarsh as principal and then puts the now-former Lotus man Boullier into the role.

Lotus owner talks financial woes, Jerez, and Renault

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Rumors of financial collapse have continued to dog Lotus, but the team’s owner, Gerard Lopez, has tried to quash them in an interview with German publication Auto Motor und Sport.

While admitting that the investment deal with the Quantum Motorsport group was now cancelled as its money never showed up, Lopez (pictured, right, with team principal Eric Boullier) said that the team’s 2014 budget was in place thanks to the large backing of Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, which came along with Pastor Maldonado to the team upon his signing.

He also revealed that former team driver Kimi Raikkonen, now back at Ferrari, has been “partly paid” for his services and that “he will get the rest” eventually.

During last season, the former World Champion revealed that he had not received his salary and went as far to hint that he might walk out on the team; he wound up missing the last two races of 2013 but for the reason of undergoing back surgery.

As for Lotus’ absence from the upcoming preseason test at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, Lopez insisted that the team was satisfied with the ongoing development of the E22 chassis and that being away from Jerez wouldn’t give its competition an advantage with the new V-6 turbo engines set to debut this year.

“There is also Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham testing [the Renault engine], and the findings will also benefit us,” Lopez said to the German publication. “Any changes Renault makes before the Bahrain test will also be in our car…The first real test is in Bahrain. Before that, we can find more laptime in the factory.”

On that note, Lopez confirmed “we have the Renault engine” but put the lack of an official engine announcement down to complications with negotiations involving Lotus and Renault’s other F1 projects.

“…Lotus is not just a customer of Renault,” he said. “Our engineers for example have helped develop the KERS. So we have tried to agree that it is more than just an engine deal, which has delayed the negotiations somewhat.”

You’d certainly like to think that Lopez’s confirmation of a 2014 budget would ease some of the concerns surrounding his team. But between skipping Jerez and no official word on an engine (at least, for now), the chatter surrounding the future of Lotus likely will continue on through the preseason.