Lotus Racing boss Tony Fernandes has called for an end to the public mudslinging in the fight over the future of the brand in Formula 1, after dismissing claims by Group Lotus boss Dany Bahar that he turned down a partnership deal.
Bahar said at a media lunch in London on Wednesday that he had tried to do a deal with Fernandes to associate Group Lotus and the F1 team, but abandoned the move when Renault offered him a similar deal for a third of the price. Fernandes has strongly denied Bahar's claims, however, and says the time has come to stop accusations being thrown about in public.
"There was no such thing as an offer," Fernandes told AUTOSPORT about Bahar's claims. "There is an understanding that Lotus' involvement with Renault is worth £20 million, ($31m) which would therefore mean that I was seeking £60 million ($94m) – which is a complete fabrication.
"We never got past an initial dinner meeting. Dany Bahar and Riad Asmat met and that was it. No offers were ever exchanged. We were very open to equity sharing, working together and other combinations. We wanted it to work for the good of the Lotus brand, and it made sense to combine.
"I can state categorically that there is no way we were three times more expensive [than Renault's offer]. Dany got it into his mind that [Lotus Racing team director] Mike Gascoyne was old school and that it would take a long, long time for Lotus Racing to be a challenger at the top.
"I think with the package we have got, toward the end of next season we will be not very far away from Renault F1 and if he had been a bit more patient, given it a bit more time and been open to news then a super collaboration could have happened."
Fernandes has said several times that his biggest fear in the fight over the future of the Lotus name was in the brand getting damaged – which is why he now wants the matter to get sorted out behind closed doors.
"It has gotten to be too much," he said. "Over the last few days I have had attacks from Dany Bahar, Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez. Personally I think it has gotten a little bit out of hand and a lot of it is fabricated.
"How [Renault F1 principal] Eric Boullier can say we have fooled fans – I think that is an insult to fans. Fans will make up their own minds. If we are not up to the mark they will not give us any support. You cannot fool anyone.
"All we wanted to do was bring Lotus back to racing and build a good relationship with Group Lotus and I think that would have been the best solution for everyone. We never wanted to bring these matters up in public, and when it (Lotus sponsoring Renault) came out we kept a very low profile about it. But there have been so many accusations that we have had to defend our position. If Group Lotus value the brand then we should try and find a solution to this. We are open to that.
"This will be my last statement on the matter and hopefully some common sense will arise."