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Fernandes seeking experience for Lotus line-up 18 Sep 2009

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 4 April 2009

Lotus’s Tony Fernandes says he hopes to recruit an experienced Formula One driver to spearhead the new team’s inaugural Formula One campaign in 2010. Fernandes is also seeking an experienced candidate to take over the role of team principal, which he plans to relinquish early next season.

The Malaysian government, partners in the project along with Fernandes and other local entrepreneurs, announced earlier this week that six drivers - Malaysian and international - are on the team’s shortlist. However, Fernandes, boss of budget airline AirAsia, believes choosing someone who knows the ropes would be beneficial.

"My personal preference would be to try to get someone with lots of experience, even though he may be ending his career, who can add a lot of experience and develop the car," he told Reuters. "Having the right personality that can transfer knowledge and enjoy working with people, I think is critical... there's no point throwing someone in at the deep end if he's not ready either."

Though the team will initially be UK based, the long-term plan is to move to purpose-built headquarters at Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit, host of the Malaysian Grand Prix, and Fernandes hopes to hand over the operational reins to a more experienced team principal - ideally Malaysian - once he's laid the groundwork.

"I am going to get it (the team) to a stage and then someone can do it full time, properly,” he added. "I just want to make sure that we (Lotus) have the right direction, the right imaging and the right future, the right strategic plan and marketing. Maybe I'll enjoy being the team principal for a couple of races and I think then we'd move it on to someone else."

Despite the Lotus team’s Malaysian focus, Fernandes insisted they would be doing everything possible to respect the Formula One heritage of the British sportscar firm, now owned by Malaysian automakers Proton.

"(The late Lotus founder) Colin Chapman had a fantastic pedigree and we want to enhance it, protect what's there and add value to it,” said Fernandes. “Very much we see ourselves as the original Lotus and carrying on the processes.”

The original Lotus team competed in almost 500 Grands Prix between 1958 and 1994, winning seven world championships along the way.