'No hitch to Lotus-Renault deal'
Takeover deal believed to have been held up by negotiations over historic payments with Bernie Ecclestone; Red Bull confirm they have signed 2016 engine deal
By Pete Gill and James Galloway in Abu Dhabi
Last Updated: 27/11/15 5:45pm
Renault have confirmed that their long-awaited takeover of the Lotus team still hasn't been completed - but expect to make an announcement next week.
It has been speculated that the deal has been placed in doubt due to a dispute with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone relating to heritage prize money payments.
"There is no last-minute hitch," countered Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul. "It's a long process and we are at the end of the process. We will make a decision at the start of next week."
Ecclestone met with Renault Sport president Jerome Stoll in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
The delay has meant Red Bull have been made to wait before confirming the exact details of their 2016 engine supply after team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1 ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP weekend that the former world champions had signed a deal for 2016 and would be staying in F1.
Renault announced at the end of September they had signed a letter of intent to purchase the cash-strapped Lotus outfit with the Enstone outfit given until December 7 to conclude a deal when they staved off a winding-up petition in the High Court.
According to Abiteboul, "50 people have been working night and day" to finalise the takeover with the Lotus team currently preparing for 2016 in the expectation that they will be a Renault works outfit next year.
"Renault people are at the factory," Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi told reporters. "We will be very surprised if it doesn't go through."
However, the long-anticipated confirmation that the deal has been concluded will not be made until next week at the earliest.
"There will be no announcement regarding Renault's future in the short, medium or long term over the weekend but there will be an announcement, very likely, in the middle of next week," said Abiteboul.
"We cannot push Renault to make a decision because it is their call," added Gastaldi.
Lotus' current owners, Luxembourg-based investment group Genii Capital, are understood to have agreed the terms on the takeover with Renault which would see the French firm become the majority shareholder.
The Enstone team's long-running financial plight has been laid bare again at this weekend's Abu Dhabi GP with unpaid bills to circuit officials delaying the build process for their cars. Lotus received dispensation from the stewards to delay the scruitneering of their cars from Thursday until Friday morning, with Ecclestone reportedly stepping in to settle the fees dispute.
Toro Rosso, who Renault also currently supply, are expected to be powered by a year-old spec of Ferrari engines in 2016 with both Toro Rosso and Red Bull poised to name unchanged driver line-ups. Lotus have already appointed Pastor Maldonado and Jolyon Palmer as their drivers for 2016.
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