Tony Fernandes wants to continue to use the Lotus name in Formula 1 next year, despite the owner of the Lotus car company trying to prevent him doing so, but added that he will not do anything that would destroy the brand.
After the team clinched 10th place in the constructors' championship in Abu Dhabi, Fernandes now faces the next hurdle in sorting out what his team will be called next year. He has concluded a deal to use the "Team Lotus" moniker in 2011 after a license deal to use Lotus Racing ended, but that move has been challenged by Group Lotus – and the matter appears headed for litigation.
Although high-level sources suggest that a clause in his Renault engine contract stipulates the deal is only valid if his team does not use the Lotus name, Fernandes says he will not give up his right to use the famous marque's title without a fight.
"We are attached to the Lotus name and we want to stay as Lotus," Fernandes told AUTOSPORT in an exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi. "We think we have done justice to it – we own the name and we want to stay with it. So, maybe a few hours before the race we were more philosophical and said, 'Well we don't want to destroy anything – and we don't want to destroy anything by getting into stupid legal cases.'
"But we are passionate and I am being very honest here, saying I would like to stay as Lotus. We own it, but do we want to go into massive legal battles? We will have to see."
He added: "I feel we've justified the name and it should not be robbed from us. But also in the cold light of day we don't want to get into stupid fights about it.
"The pragmatic Tony Fernandes is saying; let's not destroy what Colin Chapman built. And if it is meant to be it is meant to be – we will sell the brand and let [Group Lotus CEO] Dany Bahar get on and do what he wants to do. But the emotional side of me is saying we did a great job, we own it and right now I want to fight for it.
"I come from an airline business where we started with two planes, it has fought seven national airlines, and we've won. Fighting is not something we are scared of doing and fight we will do. But, we also are aware of not screwing up the brand."
The dilemma that Fernandes faces if he does win any legal battle to continue using the "Team Lotus" name is that its brand value could be weakened by the Lotus name being on another team – with Renault believed to be very close to finalizing its title sponsorship deal with the sports car manufacturer. When asked if there was a worry that he would not be able to maximize his use of the Lotus brand if the company was putting its full weight behind Renault, Fernandes said: "No. Not for me.
"The downside is, do you spend $120 million promoting a brand when you don't own half the brand – like the cars – for instance? That is the pragmatic Tony Fernandes. But the emotional Tony Fernandes says I can still do hotels, I can still do drinks, and I can wait until one day Group Lotus is available. So let's see."
Fernandes did concede, however, that the success of his team was not dependent on the name – and that the most important thing remained the personnel.
"I think what we have proven here is that very much the people are bigger than the name," he said. "I think we have brought honor to the group of people that we are and that we have won respect in the paddock, which is more important than the name.
"You don't win respect out of a name, you win respect out of performance and it is people behind that performance. If there are two Lotuses it will be very exciting next year – it could be another Branson vs. Fernandes, Branson vs. Bahar instead. We would obviously be on a back foot but we love a challenge."
Lotus Racing announced last week that it planned to switch from this year's green to a black and gold color scheme for 2011, an homage to the Team Lotus JPS livery of the 1970s and '80s.