New Lotus team is looking a bit "Fauzy"
Fairuz Fauzy believes he is now practically within touching distance of achieving his lifetime dream of making it to F1 – as he evinces ‘a real possibility’ of joining up with 2010 newcomer Lotus having proven his talent in finishing as 2009 World Series by Renault runner-up.
After clinching the top spot in the superpole qualifying session on his 27th birthday, Fauzy went on to produce a feisty showing in race one at Motorland Aragon in Spain to claim sixth from eighth on the reverse grid, getting the better of Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 ace Jaime Alguersuari along the way. He later took second place to irrepressible newly-crowned champion Bertrand Baguette in race two to secure the best-ever championship finish for a Malaysian single-seater driver at international level, coming out on top in a fraught five-way scrap for the position.
“The race was the perfect end to my season, and I hope that by finishing second in the series, it will allow me to get closer to my dream of driving in F1,” the Mofaz Fortec contender told Malaysian newspaper the New Straits Times. “I had not thought much about the F1 drive, as from the start I’d just wanted keep my focus on this target.
“With Lotus F1, there is a real possibility of me achieving my lifetime dream of driving in F1, but I knew I needed to really prove that I was ready. I hope with this, I have proved enough.”
Lotus has at its helm Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, and chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne has dropped hints that as a home-grown star, Fauzy could be in-line for a testing role with the Norfolk-based outfit when it makes its F1 debut next year – if not more. The Kuala Lumpur native has already triumphed in the troubled A1 GP World Cup of Motorsport for his nation – at Zandvoort in the 2008/09 curtain-raiser – and should he indeed be selected, he would become the first of his countrymen to compete at the highest level since Alex Yoong seven years ago.
“We have shortlisted six drivers and we have another driver in mind,” Fernandes revealed to The Star. “We are in the midst of getting him on-board.”
That ‘other driver’ is widely believed to be Jarno Trulli, whose current employer Toyota has today announced that it is leaving F1 with immediate effect [see separate story – click here]. The experienced Italian worked closely with Gascoyne at Jordan Grand Prix, Renault F1 and Toyota between 2000 and 2006.
However, Malaysia’s Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Razali Ibrahim has warned that Fauzy should not get his hopes up too much too soon – and warned that the non government-funded effort would not break even until it starts delivering results on-track. Any profit made will be ploughed into the team’s facility at the Sepang International Circuit the construction of a research and development centre.
“A Malaysian driver will only become a reality when the current batch of drivers are ready for competition,” Razali is quoted as having said by the New Straits Times, “but we have identified a test driver for next season.”
A financial director and commercial head are also understood to have been appointed, as well as 50 members of the technical department, of whom 20 are Malaysian, with the overall ratio inside the team being 70/30. Lotus is being funded RM308 million annually by Malaysia’s Tune Group, the Naza Group and British company Litespeed to the annual – and Razali insisted that by way of effective branding and marketing, the new endeavor would promote the Far Eastern country to 600 million fans worldwide and encourage young Malaysians to develop an interest in motor racing.
“We had to compete with eight other teams to get the chance to participate in the competition,” he added. “We will make the most out of our participation. When we organized the race in Sepang in 1999 we had similar reactions, but now even Singapore has acknowledged our success.
“We are not hiding anything; all expenses are borne by sponsors. This competition will not only give the national team global exposure, but also attract more tourists to Malaysia.”