Badgers favourite livery - the JPS Lotus

Finally, eh? For the first time since 1994, Lotus cars will line up on the grid…or will they? This Lotus team is not the Lotus of old, but rather a famous name tagged onto a team with Malaysian backing. The team will have a slightly bigger budget than Virgin – £55 million versus less than £40 million – but, as they were only granted a place when BMW withdrew, development work started late.

Last Friday saw an announcement that the team were a week ahead of schedule and looking to be at the third official test at Jerez on February 17th. However, bearing in mind that that’s likely to be the first time they test the cars and the first Grand Prix’s on 14th March, it’s clear that they’ll have achieved a good deal just to be lining up with something resembling four wheels and an engine.

The rather strange and eclectic mix of people and organisations that form Lotus include the boss of AirAsia Tony Fernandes as Team Principal, the Malaysian government, that well-known purveyor of sexy cars (Proton) and the old warhorse Mike ‘the rottweiler’ Gascoyne (are there any teams left he hasn’t worked for?) The Malaysian government says it has no equity within the team, but given the team’s driver announcement press conference was given by the Malaysian Prime Minister, it obviously has an interest in the team doing well.

The "team" and the Malaysian Prime Minister

As for the drivers, in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen Lotus have nabbed two of the most established, and, as things stand, they certainly make up the strongest line up (in terms of reputation, at least) of any of the new teams. Although both can be very fast on their day and are used to running towards the front of the field, it’ll doubtless be the experience in developing a car that Lotus will be most interested in. In that sense, although their delayed start might affect the first few races, they’ll then be looking for the experienced duo to make the difference and push them ahead of the other new teams.

Out of all the new teams, they seem the most convinced that they'll succeed

One thing that’s sure to spice up the rivalry with Virgin is the bet between Richard Branson and Tony Fernandes that whichever team does least well will earn their respective bigwig the forfeit of dressing up as a stewardess from their rival’s airline. Indeed, the Lotus website has already posted some ‘interesting’ looking shots of Richard Branson in full regalia. This news comes just as F1 Badger thought the time of middle-aged men in Formula One dressing in inappropriate clothing had passed…

Badger’s look at the new teams in F1 continues later this week…