It seems strange to say in modern Formula One that a team has shown up at a test without an official extension in place – gone are the days when a Minardi or someone of that ilk didn’t have an engine or tire deal done for that season – but until Thursday morning that was the case for the Lotus F1 Team.
Its engine partnership with Renault was expected, and a Renault block was in the car, but neither team nor engine manufacturer had issued a release confirming the official continuation of the partnership.
Until this morning, when they did, for what was deemed “2014 and beyond.”
A release from Renault this morning said in part:
Renault will supply the team with its Energy F1-2014 Power Unit for the coming season. … The extension continues the long and successful history of collaboration that first started in 1995 when Renault supplied its legendary V10 to Benetton, as the team was then known. … Renault’s decision to re-centre F1 activities around engine supply led to a majority shareholding being sold to Genii Capital in 2009 before the Luxembourg-based group purchased 100% control at the end of 2010. Renault has since remained involved as the team’s engine partner, aiding the team to re-emerge as a front running team in recent seasons.
While the official Renault release didn’t mention the length of the contract, the BBC reported the contract runs through 2018.
Taken at face value, that could mean a couple of things. It could mean Renault isn’t nearly as concerned about the Lotus cash flow for as bad as it seemed at times in 2013. Second, it guarantees the continued relationship of the two partners as this new engine formula for several years, without the risk of needing to change throughout the development process.
Lotus’ second day in Bahrain saw an improved number of laps – 18 by Romain Grosjean – but not enough to get past some installation issues. Pastor Maldonado takes over on Friday.
On another separate note, the team has confirmed Charles Pic, ex-Marussia and Caterham driver, as third driver for 2014. Pic will travel to races and conduct simulator work at the team’s Enstone factory.
“I am very excited to join a top team and Lotus F1 Team have certainly shown that they are a top team in this sport,” said Pic, via F1’s official website.
Other drivers in the Lotus test and reserve pipeline include Dane Marco Sorenson and Pic’s countryman, fellow Frenchman Nicolas Prost.