Lotus to be ‘Proton 1Malaysia’ in 2011

UPDATE Proton's managing director has confirmed that the company is "close" to purchasing the remaining 25 percent of Renault not owned by Genii Capital.

Last year, Renault sold a 75 percent stake in their Formula One team to Gérard Lopez's Genii Capital organization. However, the French carmaker could yet relinquishing the final shares to Proton, as the Malaysian manufacturer looks to enter F1 as more than just a sponsor.

"That's the intent," Proton's managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir told Malaysian newspaper The Star. "A decision will be made soon.

"It will be made for the betterment of the Lotus brand. We, as a shareholder, have to make sure it (the Lotus brand) survives."

He added: "We're close, just wait for a few days. (Whether it's) 25 percent is something that we are discussing.

"It's still too premature to disclose the exact percentage but it has to be a position where we can control our brand."

Proton's desire to purchase Renault's 25 percent stake is the sticking point in Tony Fernandes's battle to race under the 'Team Lotus' name in 2011.

While Fernandes is adamant he has the rights to the name, having bought them from David Hunt, who required the rights in 1994 when the team went under, Proton want to race under the 'Group Lotus' brand.

And that would cause confusion with two Lotus teams on the grid.

11/19/10 (GMM) 'Proton 1Malaysia' has been touted as a possible new name for Tony Fernandes' formula one team in 2011.

Currently, the team currently known as Lotus Racing is locked in a dispute with Group Lotus, who intend to separately enter F1 next year in collaboration with Enstone based Renault.

That raises the messy possibility of two teams being called 'Lotus'; a situation that now involves the courts and also the Malaysian government, part-owner of the Group Lotus parent and carmaker Proton.

The proposed new name for Lotus Racing was published by The Advertiser, a regional UK newspaper close to the Norwich headquarters of both Fernandes' team as well as Group Lotus.

It would be a tidy solution to the current dilemma, probably involving sponsorship for Fernandes' small team to compensate for the lost FOM revenue due to a name change, and clearing the way for Renault F1 to be renamed Lotus-Renault in 2011.

And Fernandes' team "will become a flagship Malaysian constructor hoping to build on tenth place in its first season", said the report.

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