TONY GOES BACK TO GREEN

Team Lotus will now stick with its green and yellow colours for 2011 after chief Tony Fernandes said it would be ‘ludicrous’ for his squad to run in the same paint scheme as the rebranded Lotus Renault outfit.

In the wake of the announcement this week that Lotus Cars was buying a stake in the Renault team and becoming its title sponsor, there had been fears that confusion could be caused by both the Enstone outfit and Team Lotus racing with the same black and gold colours for next year.

However, although Fernandes remains steadfast that he will stick with the Team Lotus moniker, he thinks it better for his outfit to stick with the famous green and yellow brand that it used this season rather than see through his original plans to run in black and gold.

Speaking exclusively to AUTOSPORT for the first time since the Lotus/Renault announcement, Fernandes said: “I have no problem that there will be two Lotuses on the grid. But I do think it would be ludicrous if we are both black and gold, and I can inform you that we will be changing our plans for the colour scheme.

“We declared that we were going to run in black and gold, and I’m not going to be childish to say we were first with our plans, so we will do it whatever. They have painted their car black and gold, they have made their intentions clear on that front, so be it.

“But every cloud has a silver lining, and I received some messages from people suggesting that by being black and gold we would be promoting a cigarette company. I wasn’t actually aware that JPS [John Player Special] was still being sold in the United Kingdom and various parts of the Commonwealth. So did I need that controversy? No.

“And after yesterday’s announcement by the FIA about the new engine plans for 2013, which means F1 is going green – so what better colour to be than green? So, we have been testing our fans’ reactions and many have come back to us to say we should stay green and yellow. So, I am 99 per cent sure that we will be green and yellow.”

Fernandes has expressed some frustration that Lotus has decided to team up with Renault, rather than throw its weight behind Team Lotus.

Speaking about the Lotus Cars decision, Fernandes said: “My first reaction is obviously disappointment. We were originally given a mandate for five years to go and develop a Formula 1 team.

“There are comments that have emerged in the Malaysian press that Proton was disappointed with our performance, which is one of the reasons that they gave up. I don’t know how anyone in their right mind could expect us to be competing in the top half of the grid, or even up in the bottom half of the grid, last year – having just been given an entry in September.

“I stand by the fact that I think we did very well in the year and I think that 99 per cent of the paddock would agree considering where we came from. We built a classy team – a team that could do pitstops in the same time as Ferrari. We looked good, we had a good motorhome and performed well on the track with two good drivers.

“We were the best of the new teams. We had two good drivers and Heikki Kovalainen said he had the greatest season he has had in F1 – which is great testament from a guy who has driven for McLaren and Renault. So I am a bit disappointed that we did not get a chance [from Proton/Group Lotus].”

He added: “Logically I think we could have built a great brand together. I think this year if anyone says that we didn’t help Lotus then I think they are mad, because we have helped them. And the reaction from the public is very strongly in support of us. So I think given time we would have built something good, and the perfect scenario for me would have been a merger of the two with one ambition.”

Fernandes has said that he will push on with legal moves to get a clarification on the Lotus name situation in the courts, and said he has been hugely encouraged by messages of support from fans.

“You cannot win people overnight,” he said. “This support we have got has been built up over a year.

“As I always say, things take time and things have to be done properly. You cannot parachute yourself into a brand. If you look at all my business strategy I have always believed in organic growth. It needs foundations and it needs strategy. You cannot parachute into something and say it is yours.

“People are not stupid any more, and I think the reason for the support is the people see we are trying to do something the right way.

“I am not Colin Chapman, and I never will be. He is a legend and we are not going to emulate him – but everything he did is what we are doing. He built it from scratch and did not buy into anything. You have to have brands that people love. There is lots of competition out there and people have to have respect for what you do.”