Lotus cars allowed to leave Spa
Cars ran in Belgium under threat of being impounded; Team confident they will be able to compete at next week's Italian GP
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 27/08/15 9:41am
The cars of the cash-strapped Lotus outfit have been allowed to leave the Spa circuit on team trucks, Sky Sports has learned.
Both of the team's cars ran at last weekend's Belgian GP under the threat of being impounded due to an ongoing legal row with former test driver Charles Pic.
Although a full resolution to the dispute has not yet been reached, the cars have now left the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes forest.
There was no official dialogue between Lotus and the FIA at Spa with regard to the team's financial problems, but Sky Sports understands the governing body are monitoring the situation and have concerns about potential damage to F1's image if such an episode were repeated.
Lotus are yet to officially comment on the matter, but it's understood that the team, who claimed their first podium finish in two years on Sunday when Romain Grosjean secured third place behind the runaway Mercedes, are confident that they will be able to compete at next week's Italian GP.
Dogged by money trouble in recent years, the team's parlous financial position became public knowledge last month after they had to sit out the first practice session in Budapest after a late payment to tyre suppliers Pirelli.
"We have had a very, very difficult season," Lotus' trackside operations director Alan Permane told Sky Sports F1 in the wake of Grosjean's podium finish.
"This is the worst season we have had financially and we have scrimped and scraped for parts and to get the cars on the track is a massive effort each week. So to be able to stick it on the podium is just unbelievable."
But hopes that much-needed financial relief will soon be delivered have been raised in recent weeks by intense speculation that Renault are considering buying the team with a view to Lotus reverting to their full 'works' outfit.
"The team are incredibly excited about it. We would welcome them back with open arms obviously," Permane added.
"We've got a great relationship and a great partnership with Mercedes, but to be a works team again would be fantastic. Then we can build on what we have now, build on the chassis we have this year and then try to emulate what we did with Renault in 2005 and 2006 [when they won the world title] – that is what we want to do."
However, the situation has been further complicated by the ongoing uncertainty which surrounds Renault's existing relationship with Red Bull. Although Christian Horner, the Red Bull boss, stopped short of confirming the team have served a 'quit notice' to leave the partnership at the end of the season, he told reporters at Spa that the former world champions were waiting on their engine suppliers to confirm their "plans" before making a commitment for 2016.
Yet Horner remains adamant that if the Red Bull-Renault partnership does continue into 2016, his team will remain the engine manufacturers' 'premium partners' – a clause which could scupper any hopes Renault's buy-out of Lotus could be imminent. "The terms of the agreement that we are premium partners is quite explicit," Horner told Sky Sports.