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Fernandes hoping for closer ties with Lotus Cars 10 Dec 2009

Tony Fernandes (MAL), CEO Air Asia. Motorsport Business Forum Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Day One, Wednesday 9 December 2009. The windtunnel at the Lotus F1 Racing Team Factory. Lotus F1 Racing Team Factory Shoot, Hingham, Norfolk, England, December 2009. Tony Fernandes (MAL), CEO Air Asia. Motorsport Business Forum Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Day One, Wednesday 9 December 2009.

Tony Fernandes, boss of the new Malaysian-backed Lotus Formula One team, says he expects links with Lotus Cars to grow, forming a relationship beneficial to both parties. Under the leadership of company founder Colin Chapman, the original Lotus team won seven constructors’ and six drivers’ titles in the 1960s and ‘70s.

The renowned British sportscar firm is now owned by Malaysian car giants Proton, one of the backers of the new F1 project, and Fernandes believes both parties will be able to benefit from each other’s business.

"We have a licensing agreement with Lotus owner Proton and over time that relationship will grow,” said Fernandes speaking at this week’s Motorsport Business Forum in Monaco. “Lotus will probably buy into the team at some stage. More and more technology from our side will flow into Lotus cars and we will promote the Lotus brand. I see it in time being no different from how Ferrari works."

Fernandes makes no pretence about his project being an all-new concern, but admits he plans to make the most of being able to capitalise on Lotus’s Formula One heritage, something he says he and the new team have the utmost respect for.

"I don't think we can claim any of the heritage but we are very clear about making sure we don't destroy any of the prestige,” he said. “We have an advisory council to make sure that we protect what has been built by Colin Chapman and the people at Lotus. We'll certainly celebrate it and work with it.

“We have lots of ideas. We've talked about doing something like the Goodwood Festival at next year's Malaysian Grand Prix and have lots of Lotus enthusiasts bring their cars down to Malaysia. There are lots of ways to celebrate the heritage. It's phenomenal history, a phenomenal brand. We can't claim it, but we will work with it, we'll celebrate it and we'll honour it."

As for targets for the team’s debut season, one of the first will be to beat fellow newcomers Virgin, whose title sponsor are headed by Richard Branson, someone Fernandes - boss of AirAsia - knows well from his commercial aviation business.

"I used to work for him, we partnered together on the airline, so I would like to see him behind me on the grid,” added Fernandes.