Lotus: We are well positioned but we need a sponsor who pays really well

Gerard Lopez and Eric Boullier in Belgium
Gerard Lopez and Eric Boullier in Belgium

Speaking to journalists during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Lotus team co-owner Gerard Lopez played down reports of financial trouble at the Enstone outfit, but admits that a well meaning long term sponsor would be welcome.

Reportedly in debt to the tune of € 120 million, behind in payments to lead driver Kimi Raikkonen and with the new Infinity Racing investment in doubt, Lopez insisted at Spa-Francorchamps that Lotus is in fact in good health.

Indeed, some believe the team’s debt is actually just € 28 million.

“It is € 120 million,” Lopez confirmed to Auto Motor und Sport, “but four-fifths of it we owe to ourselves, to Genii, because we do not sponsor the team but finance it through loans.”

Lotus crew service Kimi Raikkonen during the Belgian GP
Lotus crew service Kimi Raikkonen during the Belgian GP

He said, therefore, that Genii is not going to urgently demand that Lotus pays it back, “First of all I want to ensure that the team continues to be well funded. Whether we get the money back now or later, we have to see.”

“We continue to look for partners to join the team. It’s not about getting money back quickly now.”

Lopez insisted that this is precisely why Lotus does not have a title sponsor at the moment.

“We could have signed a cheap contract,” he said. “But we think from the performance point of view, we need a sponsor who pays really well.

“We don’t want to sign something now for three, four, five years that we will regret later.”

On the face of it, rumours aside, Lotus seems to be in good financial health. Raikkonen, although upset that his wages are being paid late, is still fighting for the title, while Lotus is pushing hard with development of the 2013 and 2014 cars.

Kimi Raikkonen is a big asset to the team
Kimi Raikkonen is a big asset to the team

“We are currently working on a [2013] car with a longer wheelbase,” Lopez revealed. “I think we are really well positioned.”

Losing Raikkonen, however, would be a major blow. The Finn is at the centre of the 2014 ‘silly season’, but Lopez would not be drawn on whether the touted moves to Red Bull or Ferrari are likely, or simply a negotiating tactic.

“I don’t know,” he insisted. “I don’t know whether he would actually go together with Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso. No idea.”

But if Lotus does lose its lead driver, Lopez insists that Lotus will continue to thrive,  “When you have a very good car, you always have options in Formula 1. We are very close to Renault and so we know we will have a competitive car next year too. So there will always be drivers who want to be with us.” (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.