A consortium backed by the Malaysian government is pushing hard for Lotus to beat BMW Sauber to the final slot in next year's Formula 1 World Championship.
BMW Sauber chiefs have been looking for a buyer to secure the team's future, and there has been speculation that the outfit's Malaysian backers could support a buyout bid. However, AUTOSPORT reports that the sponsors are instead close to throwing their support behind a totally new team that will use the Lotus name. The Malaysian government is eager to continue the promotion of its oil company Petronas in F1, but also start delivering a higher profile for the Lotus company name – which is owned by Malaysia's national car maker, Proton.
The push for the Lotus name in F1 could also be boosted by the arrival of former Ferrari brand guru Dany Bahar as the company's new CEO, although it is believed his appointment at the current time is coincidental and not linked to the F1 plans. Lotus's ambitions are being spearheaded by respected technical chief Mike Gascoyne, whose original Lotus team linked with the Litespeed operation were widely talked about earlier this year.
Malaysia's Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek refused to deny talk that the government is looking at its involvement in the team when speaking to local media yesterday.
"Nothing has been finalized and there's nothing to comment," he told the Malay Mail. "I'm not confirming, neither am I saying otherwise."
Shabery also did not rule out that an announcement about the team's plans was scheduled to be made after the Singapore Grand Prix later this month by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He said: "Let's wait for the PM to make the announcement. Who knows what will happen after the Singapore GP."
The FIA is currently evaluating the entries for the 13th team in F1, with an announcement expected in the next few weeks.