The DAMS-ART clash to be an F1 junior team

With reports and rumors ever more constant about a Group Lotus and Renault tie-up, it leaves some room for confusion and speculation regarding the potential F1 links for GP2 teams DAMS and ART.

The scenario

Currently, DAMS operates as the de-facto Renault F1 junior team.  Renault is 75% owned by Genii Capital, who in turn owns Gravity, firm that manages drivers such as Jerome D’Ambrosio, Romain Grosjean, Ho Pin Tung, Christian Vietoris, Alexander Sims and Marco Wittmann.   Since 2010, Gravity places its GP2-level drivers at DAMS and was probably aiming to do so in 2011.

Meanwhile, ART Grand Prix recently signed a partnership agreement with Lotus Engineering, part of Group Lotus, for GP2 and GP3.    Reading well into this, 2011 should see a Lotus-ART car in both of these series.

Now, if Lotus Cars and Renault end up agreeing to a deal for F1 (reportedly a €60 million, 3 year sponsorship deal), who will be the team’s GP2 partner?

The outcomes

If the investor has a say, arguably the Genii (investor) and Gravity (partner) alliance continues with DAMS as the GP2 partner.  If the sponsor/new partner has a word in, the Lotus Cars (sponsor) deal with ART takes the lead. But then again, Genii is also interested in the success of the F1 team… an investment it is looking to unwind in the mid-term for sure.

A difficult situation here, not one with a clearly simple solution.

My prediction?  If the Lotus Cars-Renault F1 deal is confirmed,  ART will become the F1 junior team, with the current ART driver Bianchi likely to continue, maybe partnered again by Sam Bird or a Gravity driver, possibly Vietoris.   Gravity will search elsewhere to place its remaining GP2-level drivers (for 2011, apart from Vietoris, also  Sims and Wittmann), maybe even leaving one at DAMS.

Bottom line, the Gravity-Genii-Renault linkup is there, but “soft” and with a short-term view.  The Lotus Cars-ART is solid, lasting and potentially a winning one for both Lotus and the ART operation.

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