• Lotus naming rights

Full Lotus court battle set for March 21

ESPNF1 Staff
January 24, 2011 « Chandhok closing on Lotus reserve drive | »
The bitter row over the Lotus brand is set to rumble into the 2011 season © Sutton Images

A High Court judge has set a March 21 trial date for the Lotus naming dispute, meaning two teams will start the season using the historic name.

Group Lotus had applied for a summary judgement on Monday in the hope its side of the argument would be so conclusive that a decision would be made immediately. However, Mr Justice Peter Smith said all the claims would be settled at a hearing at London's High Court in eight weeks time, the earliest possible date both sides could agree on.

The trial will start on the second Monday after the Bahrain Grand Prix, meaning both teams will turn up at the season opener under Lotus signage and one may have to change its identity midway through the season.

Monday's hearing focused on Group Lotus' decision to withdraw Team Lotus' naming rights, but the full trial will deal with further issues of breach of contract and Group Lotus' use of Lotus' F1 history, which Team Lotus' says it owns.

The whole issue stems from Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar's decision to end his company's naming rights deal with Tony Fenrandes' Team Lotus (which was in place before Bahar joined in 2009) and sponsor a more established team instead. That prompted Fernandes to buy the naming rights to the original Team Lotus, which had been dormant since 1994 and were owned by David Hunt.

Group Lotus believes it has the sole right to use the Lotus brand in Formula One, while Fernandes is confident he has bought the separate Team Lotus brand from Hunt. Due to the complexities of the case it is very difficult to predict when a final decision will be reached, and if there are grounds for appeal it is almost certain it will rumble on.