Force India is keeping a close eye on the progress of the Lotus Formula 1 team's 2010 design, with team sources saying it is concerned about the similarities between its old car and the new Lotus.
Lotus recently published photographs of the wind tunnel model that will form the basis of its new car. At the time, there was discussion about how similar it looked to the Force India – especially because Force India's former Aerolab wind tunnel and technical chief Mike Gascoyne are now working together on the Lotus project.
Sources suggest that there were details on the wind tunnel model that have become a cause for alarm for Force India's senior management. These relate to the design of the front wing assembly, which Force India believes is virtually identical to that which it started last season.
Furthermore, the team is concerned by the fact that the Lotus was fitted with wind-tunnel tyres that featured hand-writing from Force India staff – meaning they could only have come from the Silverstone-based team.
Sources have said that Force India is keeping a keen eye on the situation – although no formal action has yet been taken on the matter. That situation could change, however, when Lotus signs the Concorde Agreement – when it will then have to comply with a clause that demands no parts of its 2010 car have been designed by anyone working for another team.
Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne has played down any talk that the Lotus is a copy of the Force India - and says any similarities between the cars may purely be because it has been designed by people who have already good knowledge of the current F1 regulations through their work on previous projects.
"Obviously, our wind tunnel model was designed for us by Fondtech in Italy," Gascoyne told AUTOSPORT. "It is based around a 2010 chassis, because there is a big fuel volume in it, it has a Cosworth engine, an Xtrac gearbox, our suspension, and other stuff designed by us. The Fondmetal guys put some generic bodywork on [for the tests].
"Some of the staff had been working on different projects. And whereas you cannot copy anything or take anyone else's intellectual property, you can use your expertise – and you will base that on what you know and what directions you know have been happening. That is what has happened."
Gascoyne added that because Lotus sub-contracts its design work to Fondtech, then any complaints Force India has should be directed to it – not Lotus.