Lotus has a shortlist of drivers

UPDATE Malaysia's 1Malaysia F1 Team for the 2010 season is likely to feature a driver with vast F1 experience to lead the charge, so, a homegrown talent to spearhead the Lotus F1 Team in the debut season next year is unlikely to happen.

Not until the chosen one is ready to enter the big league and compete with the big boys of F1, according to Lotus F1 Team Principal, Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.

So for now, the search is on for a driver with the experience; the temperament and the proven skills to carry the Malaysian flag next season.

And probably that's why Fernandes is here for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix to seek out and maybe finalize a deal to bring a proven F1 name on board.

People like Kimi Raikkonen of the Ferrari team and former world champion Fernando Alonso of the Renault Team, last year's Singapore GP winner, are said to be the team's target.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore GP at the Marina Circuit here today, Fernandes said that the team is in F1 not to finish last.

"We want to prove that we can compete with the rest of the newcomers in F1 from the very start and by the middle of the season, we hope to be positioned right in the middle of the pack. But three to five years down the road, hopefully we can be among the best.

"Of course there is no guarantee in F1 but we dare to dream and that's very important. Naturally we want to have a Malaysian driver behind the wheels but until he is ready we are not going to throw him into the deep end. Like what happened to Alex Yoong," said Fernandes.

Yoong was the first Malaysian in F1 with Team Minardi in the late nineties but he never really made an impact.

But there is talk that Fairuz Fauzy, who drives in GP 2 and Jazeman Jaafar, the Formula BMW Asia champion are being considered for the second driver's spot.

Fernandes added that the Lotus F1 Team car with it's Cosworth engine is now being developed at it's base in Norfolk, United Kingdom and should be ready to roll by the second week of February and would be brought back to the Sepang circuit for testing.

09/15/09 Lotus F1 Technical Director Mike Gascoyne has revealed that the team is eyeing several drivers ahead of the legendary name's revisiting of the sport next year. The Malaysian-backed squad, which has been allowed use of the Lotus brand by owners Proton, has been selected by the FIA as Formula One's thirteenth team. With BMW having pulled out of F1 but revealed on Tuesday to have been bought by Swiss firm Qadbak, it was beaten to its place on the grid by Lotus. As the FIA attempts to see the team formerly known as Sauber become a 14th entry, Lotus rejoins F1 for the first time in 15 years.

Heading the team, which will be based in Norfolk but hopes to open a new facility at Malaysia's Sepang Circuit, will be Tony Fernandes as Mike Gascoyne returns from a year's sabbatical to the role of Technical Director. Having explained that the Malaysian Prime Minister revealed the forming of the team on Tuesday, Gascoyne spoke of possible achievements.

"I think we will be launching the car late, and that has reliability aspects, but I still think, with the work we've done, that we will target being the best of the new cars on the grid," he told the BBC. "That's a very clear initial target, and realistic, and I would hope by mid-season that we are challenging the bottom rung of the current teams and I think that's achievable."

No drivers have yet been selected although Norwich-born Gascoyne admits that several are being viewed as candidates. "Obviously the driver market's fairly volatile, teams not confirming drivers and a lot of uncertainty, so we have a shortlist of drivers," he revealed.

Now we've got our entry confirmed – because it's always this chicken and egg thing, you can't talk to people until you've definitely got an entry, they won't take you seriously – we have a target list of drivers, so we'll start talking to them and we hope we'll be able to announce something in a reasonably sensible time frame.

"I think the whole package ought to attract drivers because I think that everyone will be able to see that what we have is something very substantial moving forward; I think we're very confident with the group, with Tony Fernandes leading the team, that we'll be able to put in place a package that will allow us to be very competitive."

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