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Lotus almost brought F1 into disrepute says Ecclestone

NEWS STORY
15/03/2014

It would be an understatement to say that Lotus hasn't had a glittering start to this year's Formula One season. Its cars qualified for the season-opener in last place and, as if that wasn't embarrassing enough, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has accused them of almost bringing the sport into disrepute according to an article in the CityAM newspaper by Christian Sylt.

His criticism is qualified however and it relates to the team's antics at the end of last season which we would hope they have moved on from. As was well-documented, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November former Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen announced that he had "not been paid a single euro all year" with estimates suggesting that he was due around £14.4m in pay. In the same month world champion Sebastian Vettel said that Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg "is yet to get a penny." It got Ecclestone's attention.

"It isn't good for Formula One to have a team which isn't paying its drivers," he says. However, he adds "is it better not to pay the driver that isn't starving? He has a contract and should be paid. That's right. But is it better to pay the workers that have got mortgages and houses? Better to pay them which is what Lotus tried to do. They tried to pay their workforce."

As Pitpass revealed, Lotus' latest financial statements show that in 2012 it made one of the biggest losses in F1 history. The team finished the year £56.8m in the red and Ecclestone says that in 2013 "Lotus anticipated there would be a lot more money coming in. They were promised deals by companies saying 'yes we will.'"

It is a reference to an announcement in June last year that the team's majority owner, the private equity firm Genii, had sold a 35% stake in it to an investment group called Infinity. However, Genii founder Gerard Lopez was later forced to admit that the deal had not gone through.

Räikkönen jumped ship to Ferrari this year and has been replaced with Venezuela's Pastor Maldonado who brings substantial backing from the country's oil company PDVSA.

In addition, as Pitpass also revealed, a 2% stake in the team was acquired last year by property tycoon Andrew Ruhan. In addition, Genii recently sold a 10% stake in the team to Russian telecoms company Yota Devices.

"Lotus keeps me posted about what is going on," says Ecclestone. "I have no problem with Gerard. He is a proper entrepreneur."

He adds "I think Lotus has got finance as well as another partner in the company so they seem happy. I thought we would have lost some teams by now but we haven't so I imagine everything is fine."

The teams will get an additional boost next year when a £120m ($200m) annual cap on team budgets is introduced by the FIA. It will be a big change. There is currently a self-policed resource restriction in F1 which limits team spending on key areas such as computer simulations and testing. However, several outfits, including last year's champions Red Bull Racing, do not take part. They will have no choice but to participate in the cap and Ecclestone recently said that deductions of race results will be the punishment for breaking it. Time will tell whether that is enough incentive.

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1. Posted by psem, 18/03/2014 0:06

"Black dog, I can't add a thing. Indeed, it's Bernie calling the kettle black."

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2. Posted by blackdog, 16/03/2014 21:25

"I have always been a fan of Bernie, believing that, over the years, he has done a brilliant job of running F1.
BUT, I have to say that it is a bit rich for him to accuse Lotus F1 of almost bringing F1 into disrepute.
Is this a joke? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!!
"Bernie, you have been dragged through the courts in New York and London, and will soon to find yourself in German and Swiss courts, being accused of bribery and corruption.
If this is not bringing F1 into disrepute, I do not know what is!!!
While I'm at it, apparently Azerbaijan is going to have a Grand Prix. Azerbaijan Bernie?
Oh yes, of course, there must be hundreds of thousands of eager F1 fans in Azerbaijan.
Where will they all park their donkeys on race weekend? Not sure it's a brilliant market for Mercedes really.
Where next to sell an F1 race Bernie? Turkmenistan, Tajikistan?, what about Chad?, or Eritria?
Got to keep those coffers filled for the CVC board right? and the fans? What about the fans? Oh Screw them!
I don't know what you are smoking Bernie, but I'll have some, because you are either totally wacked out on Kashmiri Ice (Bluebird), or you have finally gone completely f'ing potty, maybe both.
Either way, I reckon it's time you handed over the show to someone else, and preferably before you destroy it completely, which you risk doing with any more hairbrained schemes.

"

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