Lotus confident Quantum deal will come through
SAO PAULO (AP) — Lotus officials say they expect a deal with investor group Quantum Motorsports to be finalized in the coming days, giving the Formula One team the financial help it needs for next season.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said the announcement could be made shortly after the year-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
“There is still some discussion ongoing, especially now between bankers,” Boullier said. “The process is not fully completed but I think part of it has been done, which is obviously a good sign for the weekend and we hope that everything is closed by early next week.”
Lotus is hoping Quantum will finally come through with the funding, which will influence the team’s driver lineup for 2014. Romain Grosjean is secured for next year, but the second driver will depend on how much money the team will have.
“Obviously you need to have the right package to get the right driver,” he said. “I’m still confident I will get one of the guys I want.”
Nico Hulkenberg of Germany is touted as the favorite to take over the seat, but if the deal doesn’t come through, Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela likely becomes the best option because he can bring more sponsorship money with him.
World champion Kimi Raikkonen left the team to join Ferrari.
RUNNING FOR SECOND:
Three teams enter the final race of the year fighting for second place in the constructors’ championship in Formula One — Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus. Red Bull easily clinched the title in advance.
With 43 points still at stake at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Mercedes holds a 15-point lead over Ferrari and a 33-point advantage over Lotus.
Finishing the year second makes a big difference in prize money, but some teams have been downplaying the fight.
“We are fighting with a very strong team and we will not cheer like hell if we (are) second and we will not be depressed if we will not be in second position,” Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said. “Nothing will change in our approach and we will stay focused up until the end.”
Mercedes put both drivers in the top five in qualifying on Saturday and is in position to stay in front. Nico Rosberg will start second and Lewis Hamilton fifth. Ferrari has Fernando Alonso in third place and Felipe Massa in ninth, while Lotus has Romain Grosjean starting sixth and Heikki Kovalainen 11th.
“Second place would be a boost for everyone in the team, particularly as we came from fifth last year and I think the improvement in the performance of the car has been quite significant this year,” Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said. “Of course it’s not where we ultimately want to be, so we need to have a measured response if we’re able to finish second.”
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier knows it won’t be easy to get the points needed to leapfrog into second place.
“I think second place, or even third place, we need a little bit of help to get there,” he said. “But maybe thanks to the funny weather we have we can expect the best of it.”
GOING FOR THREE:
The discussion about whether Formula One should consider using three-car teams or allow the smaller teams to buy chassis from the main constructors continued ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier reiterated his position that having “customer” cars would not be the “right path to go” because it’s “against the DNA of F1,” which has always taken pride in having strong constructors.
“I think if F1 needs to go one path, it is to guarantee a number of cars on the grid and obviously a number of teams running three cars would be, for me, a better solution,” he said.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn agreed.
“We’re not a supporter of customer cars,” he said. “We think the identity of the teams is important, the fact that the teams design and build their own cars is important, but however, if Formula One faced a situation where we didn’t have sufficient cars on the grid, then of course a three-car team is a possibility, but only in those circumstances.”
Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali said having three-car teams would be the solution “if some teams will not be there in the future.”
“We really need to understand what is the future of Formula One,” he said. “What are the objectives that can be discussed in a common way. I’m sure that very soon this will be the most important topic of discussion.”
Having the three-car teams instead of costumer cars could mean that the smaller teams may lose their place on the grid.
“I’m not in favor of customer cars,” Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul said. “Having said that, I think the situation we have is not necessarily sustainable. If a third car is one thing to do, why not, but in (this) example there were only eight teams so I would like to hope that we are not one of the three teams that will be out of the game.”
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni