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Lotus freight arrives late in Japan as financial concerns grow

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The financial uncertainty facing Lotus F1 Team grew in the lead up to this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as its freight only arrived at Suzuka halfway through Thursday.

Most of the teams had their freight delivered to the track well in advance of the weekend, allowing the crews to work on their cars and prepare accordingly for the race.

Lotus has faced a great amount of financial uncertainty in recent months, and although talks with Renault about a possibly buy-out for 2016 are ongoing, the future of the Enstone operation is becoming less and less clear.

The team’s freight only arrived at Suzuka on Thursday due to outstanding bills, leaving it with a race against time to get everything prepared for practice on Friday.

Remarkably, the crew was not forced to break its work curfew as it managed to get the cars set up and prepared, and even managed to make light of the situation with its choice of music.

Sadly though, it might well be a ‘road to nowhere’ for Lotus. Last week, the High Court in England agreed to adjourn a hearing relating to outstanding payments to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), saving the team from administration.

However, the judge did say that “it is to be regarded as a final adjournment”, with the next hearing scheduled for Monday following the Japanese Grand Prix.

“With the Renault deal still not done, they risk going back to court on Monday and then it is game over,” a source in Suzuka told MotorSportsTalk.

The team did not erect its hospitality unit on Thursday, leaving drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado to complete their media commitments standing in the middle of a drizzly Suzuka paddock.

On Friday morning ahead of practice, it still remained empty.

Lotus confirmed via its Twitter account that it had been given access to the canteens used for the staff in Bernie Ecclestone’s VIP Paddock Club as the sport’s CEO ensured that the team did not go hungry.

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Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.