Lopez admits to 114m Lotus debt


Lotus chairman Gerard Lopez has revealed that his team is 114m in debt, whilst admitting that talks with Quantum Motorsport are dead and buried.

At a time when many are concerned over the team's future, a situation not helped by the news that it will not attend the opening pre-season test, Lopez has opened up in an interview with Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"We have about 114 million pounds of debt, of which more than 80 million is with ourselves," he said, referring to Genii Capital. "But what are we (Genii) going to do, demand repayment of the debt? That makes no sense.

"We are doing this because it is fiscally interesting. We can put the money down to marketing expenses, after all it is sitting in our company, and it is safe there.

"The budget gap last season was covered by us," he admitted. "The Quantum money never arrived... we have now cancelled the thing.

"For 2014, everything is complete with our new sponsor (PDVSA's) budget. We will not need to make any new debt. Genii is one of 98 percent still us.

"Eventually we will see how we recover the debt, but at the moment, it is important that the team moves forward. If I couldn't cover the cost I would have had to lay off 250 people."

Of course the team has already lost some key personnel...

"Last year, we were working on three projects simultaneously," he said. "Overall, we had about 580 people. Now we can concentrate on the 2014 car and the workforce is down to around 500.

"Yes, we've lost some people to the competition, but we've also recruited new people from Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. This is the carousel of Formula 1, it operates according to the Darwinian principle... the 'Survival of the fittest'.

"Of course, we lose ideas to the competition, but we learn from new recruits what's happening with the other teams. When James Allison went to Ferrari, they did not suddenly become faster, indeed, I believe that we had the better car at the end of the season."

Asked to explain the decision not to attend the Jerez test, he said: "We are very satisfied with the development of our car, which will probably look different to the others. But we believe that it is better to use the next few weeks in the wind tunnel. That will deliver much more than one test on track... as we gain more in performance."

He also dismissed claims that by missing out on Jerez his team will also miss out on valuable experience of the new Renault engine.

"The engine is used by Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham, so their findings will benefit us. Everything Renault changes for the Bahrain test will also be on our car. The transmission is our own development, so we can react quickly if something goes wrong. The only thing that we will be missing out on in Jerez is the electronics, such as the KERS, but that's not the end of the world.

"At Jerez the temperature will be around 15 or 16 degrees, so what will we learn there about the tyres and cooling?" he continued. "Let us go direct to Bahrain... at Jerez you can test for Silverstone, nothing else. The first real test will be in Bahrain. Before that, we can find more lap time at the factory.

"We did briefly consider, in terms of the tyres, going to Jerez with the old car, but the engineers advised against it. The Jerez track surface has a special coating that means you cannot learn much. It's wasted time."

Talking of Renault, there is talk doing the rounds that there could yet be a problem between Lotus and Renault, with, as yet, no official confirmation of their partnership in 2014.

"We will be using the Renault engines, as they have been an ideal partner for us," he said. "Lotus is not just a customer of Renault our engineers have helped develop the KERS. Therefore, our partnership is more than just engine supply, which has delayed negotiations somewhat."

Asked about a rumour linking Lotus with the Italian sports car builder de Tomaso, he replies: "There is currently nothing in it. We are going to develop a carbon chassis for sports car that can be built industrially in large quantities and de Tomaso is an option... that is one of the new tasks of (former Lotus CEO) Patrick Louis. But this has nothing to do with Formula 1."

Looking to the season ahead and his interesting driver pairing.

"I am a realist," he insists. "Even if some people have their doubts, I contend that we have one of the fastest driver pairings in F1. Two years ago I would have said, the pairing is quick, but explosive, today it is different. Romain is for me one of the four fastest drivers, maybe even three. Faster than a few names they regularly mention. He is now strong in the head and very resistant.

"Pastor must take the last step yet. He is super-fast. We know him very well. He must now go through the same phase as Romain. He needs to learn that a Grand Prix does not consist of a few fast laps, but of an entire weekend. He needs to control his speed better."

Finally, asked whether Kimi Raikkonen ever got paid, Lopez admits: "He got part of his salary, and he will get the rest."

Chris Balfe

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Published: 15/01/2014
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