ART-Lotus, part II

OK, here is what I can begin to piece together.

Facts

1.  Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering (a consultancy) are the road car company owned by Proton of Malaysia.

2.  Lotus Racing is the F1 team launched this year by Tony Fernandes (also of Malaysia)

3.  Team Lotus is the old F1 brand purchased by David Hunt (just the brand)

Piecing together

– The agreement with ART for GP2 and GP3 is with the Lotus Cars company – thus the engineering and technical support bit – acting as a consultant to the French team

– Lotus Racing has just purchased the Team Lotus brand and will race following the tradition of the team Colin Chapman made great

-Lotus Racing and Lotus cars share the same logo and colors for now, where I assume there is an agreement, licensing deal or similar

-Mofaz Racing, the WSR team owned by the Fauzy family, runs with the Lotus colors and has an agreement with Lotus Racing (Fernandes), and has created the Lotus Junior Team in this series

– But, that livery is shared by Takuma Sato in The IndyCar Series, BUT, the KV Racing livery deal is with Lotus Cars NOT Lotus Racing

Conclusions

Power struggle between Lotus Cars (Proton/Malaysia) and Lotus Racing/Team Lotus (Tony Fernandes).   ART will show up with a green/yellow Lotus livery as early as GP2 Asia, if we interpret Vasseur’s comments correctly.  Thus, the Team Air Asia just granted a GP2 license will be an Air Asia branded team, unless a different agreement is reached.

What does this mean?  Basically, Lotus Cars is setting up an umbrella group of contacts in IndyCar, GP2, GP3 and maybe others.   Lotus Racing/Team Lotus has F1 and the WSR licensing with Fauzy.   My take is that Lotus Cars is pushing the Fernandes team away, and will ultimately make an F1 push with the very solid ART structure.  Lotus Racing, and the Fernandes fascination with the brand, will probably have to make a very strong case for itself, or take the much fabled Team Lotus brand and image in another direction.

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ART-Lotus GP2 linkup… what?

Last night I read and re-read the press release from Lotus announcing their partnership with ART Grand Prix, where the F1 team will provide “technical and engineering support”.

Had I read this 2 days ago, I would have thought it was an interesting deal, that no doubt strengthens the Lotus position in the junior categories they race in and gives ART a direct window upwards to the F1 heavens.  Yet after announcing Team Air Asia (basically Lotus Junior Team) as part of the 2011-2013 GP2 grid, I must confess the news baffle me.   Yes, Lotus has “history” and ART is the best team in GP2, but this?

Frèdèric Vasseur’s comments are the most confusing of all: “It is a fantastic opportunity for ART Grand Prix to be working with Lotus. The goal is clear: winning together the future GP2 and GP3 championships. I can’t wait to see the new livery of our racing cars.”….. What??

No matter which angle I try to understand, the story makes little or no sense.  First, why would ART link-up with a competitor in GP2, and maybe in a near future, GP3?  Second, why would the GP2 Series grant entry to a team that has a partnership with a current grid member?

All I can think of is we are starting to see a Red Bull-Toro Rosso type situation here, much like we sometimes saw in F3000 many years ago.  Lotus and Tony Fernandes pressured/insisted to get into GP2 to complement their junior driver program, so the ART deal seems either unnecessary at this point or just plain confusing.  Lotus will effectively “have” 2 junior teams in GP2 now.

The questions that remain are:

1. Is Lotus/Fernandes investing in ART? – seems unlikely since ART just got cash from both Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Brazilian firm Aethra

2. Is ART (Vasseur/Todt) investing in Lotus? – hmmmm… maybe that is it?

I will keep looking into it and keep posting….

Carlin and Lotus join GP2 – DPR out

Carlin and Team Air Asia (basically Lotus) have been announced as the 2 new teams for the GP2 Series 2011-2013 period.  These teams take the spot left vacant by Durango this year, as well as the spot currently occupied by DPR.

Not good news for André Herck, though this confirmation has been rumored for a long time, and the GP2 organization must have clear and concrete reasons for this decision.

Thus, the new list of teams for GP2 is:

Arden International
ART Grand Prix
Barwa Addax Team
Carlin
Dams
iSport International
Ocean Racing Technology
Racing Engineering
Rapax
Scuderia Coloni
Super Nova Racing
Team Air Asia (Lotus)
Trident Racing

New teams set to be annouced today

As reported by 4:2:2 Race, the GP2 organization should be announcing the team lineup for the 2011-2013 period.

As widely expected, DPR is expected to join Durango in the ex-teams list, leaving 2 slots open for new teams to join the GP2 and GP2 Asia Series grid.

Though GP2 Asia outfit Meritus is thought to be in the lead for one of the slots, doubts have emerged as the announcement date got closer.  One of the key questions that backs up this possibility is why didn’t Meritus enter the series at the beginning of 2010?  Even if it was the final season of this agreement, had Meritus committed to GP2 filling in for Durango, I am quite sure all other 12 teams and Bruno Michel would have guaranteed the Malaysian team’s position for 2011-2013.

Now, the strongest rumor regards another Malaysian, as Lotus is heavily thought to be in line for one of the spots, as the team has announced it will be extending its global branding/junior team concept from its World Series presence to its own IndyCar team, and now GP2.   Should this happen, it will most likely be through an extension of its current Mofaz (ex-Fortec) structure.

That said, which GP2 team will be axed?  I agree with article author Fabrizio Corgnati in that Andre Herck’s DPR team will be the one to go.  Herck has been somewhat of a renegade (not a criticism at all) since his arrival in GP2 in partnership with David Price.  This own style, and his own vision of the team and his place in the series may ultimately be what could cost Herck the GP2 spot for the next 3 years.   The team has significantly stepped up its operations since last season, pulling off an extraordinary Asia campaign and a solid European season.  This improvement is due mainly to the decision of moving the team from England to its current Padova base in Italy.  Also relevant, the inclusion of Giacomo Ricci, a strong driver and race winner that has no doubt been a positive influence to an improving, yet still errant, Michael Herck.

As for who could take DPR’s spot, I really have no inputs on what could happen. My comments on this:

  • Manor: Should you side with the F1 junior team concept (I’m not 100% aligned with this theory), a Manor license would make sense, complementing both the F1 and GP3 presence.  Yet I have serious doubts whether the F1 side of the Virgin-Manor linkup is healthy and could survive for 2011.
  • Carlin:  Also a GP3 team, Carlin would make sense as well.  Yet I am not convinced that the very smart Trevor Carlin sees the benefit of GP2 just yet.  He has had chances to join the series in previous seasons yet has not taken the steps to do so.
  • Mucke: Again, a GP3 team that has a strong track record and a potential F1 linkupsvia its F3 Mercedes engine supply.  Not sure if they are ready just yet for GP2 though.

So apart from Lotus, the final spot is wide open in my opinion.  We could endlessly add to the list, teams like Signature, Igor Salaquarda (ISR), Tech 1 or Jenzer, though this would just be adding more wood to the fire.

Let’s see if our curiosity is satisfied today and the GP2 organization makes its decision public.

Italian GP – driver rankings

Not one of the most exciting races of the year, though it did produce 2 key highlights:  the crowning of Pastor Maldonado as the deserved champion for 2010 and the spectacular weekend from Sam Bird, who we hope will be back for a second season in 2011.

The weekend was dominated by drivers we are used to seeing in the top-10 but not necessarily on the podium this year, as Bird, Vietoris, D’Ambrosio, Chilton and Tuvey were protagonists in both days.   Maldonado’s races were both quite short, and we are sure he would have preferred to celebrate his title from inside the car rather than in the Rapax truck.

Sergio Pérez, though unlucky after an over-anxious Herck destroyed his title hopes at Ascari yesterday, should have qualified better on Friday to seriously challenge for the crown.   Thus, the reason for such a low rating on our ranking for the weekend.  Pérez needed to dominate the weekend and he did not pull through.

Strong debut weekend from Edoardo Piscopo, though he was rear-ended by Valsecchi today, while Hartley’s first GP2 races will be easy to forget.   Returnees Parente and Grosjean had quite messy weekends, with neither really having the chance to openly race without getting tangled up in traffic and small on-track incidents.

Now, a long break until Abu Dhabi, where we are very likely to see many driver changes as teams set up for both 2011 and the coming GP2 Asia season.

Vietoris takes Monza sprint

Great result for Christian Vietoris today, starting to make up for a disappointing season with a win he actually made happen only seconds after the start.  The cars of Chilton, Piscopo and Zaugg seemed at a standstill as Vietoris zig-zagged his way past and never looked back.

Now champ Maldonado was out at the first pass through the Parabolica, bobbling and getting offline as Pérez ahead of him barely touched the gravel.   Though mathematically possible, Pérez had to win and take fastest lap, but even before the race we all knew the championship was sealed yesterday.

In other incidents, Valsecchi took out countryman Piscopo at the first turn and Gonzalez had a very dangerous off, taking Giedo’s rear wing off, and almost colliding with Marcus Ericsson on his way across the track.

Sam Bird crowned a near-perfect weekend with a 3rd place, while Jerome D’Ambrosio was a solid second, though challenged strongly by the ART driver in the final five laps.   Another strong race for fellow Britons Chilton and Turvey, while Bianchi seemed halfway through the race to be content with a points-paying fourth.

Overall, not the greatest racing weekend of all, with great attrition and the crowning of the first non-European GP2 champion.  Felicidades Pastor!

Results:

1. Christian Vietoris – Racing Engineering

2. Jerome D’Ambrosio – DAMS

3. Sam Bird – ART

4. Jules Bianchi – ART

5. Max Chilton – Ocean

6. Oliver Turvey – iSport

7. Adrian Zaugg – Trident

8. Charles Pic – Arden

9. Alvaro Parente – Coloni

10. Luiz Razia – Rapax

11.  Marcus Ericsson – Super Nova

12. Dani Clos – Racing Engineering

13. Sergio Pérez – Addax

14. Luca Filippi – Super Nova

15. Fabrizio Crestani – DPR

16. Davide Valsecchi – iSport

Bird wins a demolition derby… Pastor: not yet

Sam Bird won a race where only 13 cars ended up crossing the finish line.  A true demolition derby with multiple accidents, both at the first chicane and at Ascari – the most notable being Maldonado, who jumped over Grosjean’s car, and Pérez, who was punted off by Herck.

Though Rapax and Pastor were visibly celebrating, the title is still 1 point away, yet it is likely  that it will be settled tomorrow as both drivers will probably not score any points in the sprint race (thanks Sauber11 for the heads-up!)..

The race started off with trouble at the first chicane, where many had to jump it to avoid contact.  At the next curve, Filippi strongly crashed into Giedo, causing Dani Clos to spin and taking all three out of the race.  At the restart, Maldonado was tapped by Pérez, causing him to fly over Grojean’s car and destroying his Rapax Dallara.   Shortly after, Herck ran into the Mexican’s car, very likely sentencing the title as well, though mathematically he still has a chance.  We still have no information, but Pérez seemed to complain of pain in his right arm and shoulder.

Multiple penalties as well, most for cutting the first chicane and gaining an advantage, especially affecting the races of Parente and Valsecchi, who were poised for a strong result and could have probably challenged for the podium.

Sam Bird then gets his first GP2 win, and could be a strong push for another season in 2011.  It was a quiet race for him, set up perfectly by his challenge to polesitter Bianchi at the first corner.  Bianchi himself had a tranquil race, something he probably thanked after almost being punted off by D’Ambrosio at the first chicane on the first safety car restart.

For tomorrow’s race, Max Chilton is on pole, with Edoardo Piscopo alongside after keeping his nose out of trouble.  Both Trident cars in the points today, with Zaugg coming in 6th, and very likely making the Italian team ecstatic in its home race.

Results (from Italiaracing):

1 – Sam Bird – ART – 30 laps 49’27″229
2 – Jules Bianchi – ART –
3 – Oliver Turvey – iSport –
4 – Christian Vietoris – Racing Engineering –
5 – Jerome D’Ambrosio – Dams –
6 – Adrian Zaugg – Trident –
7 – Edoardo Piscopo – Trident –
8 – Max Chilton – Ocean –
9 – Davide Valsecchi – iSport –
10 – Fabrizio Crestani – DPR –
11 – Charles Pic – Arden –
12 – Alvaro Parente – Coloni –
13 – Romain Grosjean – Dams –