The managing director of Proton, the Malaysia-based owner of Group Lotus, has acknowledged publicly for the first time that the company is negotiating to conclude a partial purchase of the Renault Formula 1 team, and not merely have Lotus become a sponsor of the Enstone-UK based team.
Proton MD Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir told Malaysian newspaper The Star that Proton is negotiating to buy 25 percent of the Renault team.
"We're close, just wait for a few days," Zainal said. "25 percent [shareholding] is something that we are discussing. It's still too premature to disclose the exact percentage but it has to be a position where we can control our brand."
That control is believed to include the renaming of the Renault team – which no longer is directly owned by the French automaker – as Lotus. This intent would explain the ongoing efforts of Group Lotus to prevent Tony Fernandes from identifying his independent F1 program as "Team Lotus," as planned. Fernandes admitted earlier this week that his team faces "many battles ahead" in its efforts to keep the Team Lotus moniker, but indicated he has no intention of surrendering the moniker voluntarily.