Q. Can you explain the ownership structure of your team and how the Lotus brand fits in?
TF: Lotus is a complicated brand. Obviously Proton in Malaysia owns Lotus, and we have a licensing agreement with them. I think, over time, that relationship will solidify more and more, and Group Lotus will probably buy into the team at some stage. More and more technology from our side will go into Lotus cars, we will promote Lotus Cars closely, and I see it in time being no different from how Ferrari works.
Q. To what extent can you claim the heritage of Lotus in Formula 1?
TF: I don't think we can claim any of the heritage but we obviously have a great relationship with Clive and Hazel Chapman. We're in Norfolk and a few miles from Hethel. We are very clear about making sure we don't destroy any of the prestige. We have an advisory council to make sure that we protect what has been built by Colin Chapman and the people at Lotus.
So I don't think we can claim [Lotus heritage] but we'll certainly celebrate it and work with it. We have lots of ideas. We've talked about doing something like the Goodwood Festival at this year's Malaysian Grand Prix and have lots of Lotus enthusiasts bring their cars down to Malaysia. There are lots of ways to celebrate the heritage. It's phenomenal history, a phenomenal brand. We can't claim it, but we will work with it, we'll celebrate it and we'll honor it.
Q. What have you learned from being a sponsor that you can take into team ownership?
TF: It has been a fantastic relationship with Williams, it started as a very small sponsor. I think we're a great example of how it worked. We were a small brand, we sponsored a Formula 1 team, we grew it and we added more. In eight years, we have built a brand that is second to none. We've started another airline called Air Asia X, which really almost mirrors the Formula 1 circuit. Williams has helped us tremendously. They worked very hard on building the brand.
But I do think there are more things that can be done. I think generally Formula 1 teams are really race teams. I think the business side of Formula 1 hasn't always been exploited for the best ability of sponsors. Being on both sides, I think we know what sponsors want and now we have a team so we'll try and marry the two and give more value to sponsors.
Q. What does the Resource Restriction Agreement mean for a new team like you?
TF: It gives us everything we need. Obviously, at one stage we were ready to put a team out at £40 million ($65m) because that's what we were told the cap was going to be. Obviously, we're in favor of having less money to build a car, but it's still exciting.
I am still confused as to where all the extra money goes when you have a team with £150 million ($245m). I'm still trying to understand my £55 million.
We think we are going to have a very reasonable car. We know we aren't going to be competing [at the front] in year one, but it takes time and we'll have a good basis for moving forward. But the idea of capping costs is a good one, because you do need good teams, you do need a competitive grid.
If you look at American sports, the NFL has got it right, because you never know who will be the Super Bowl winner – the way they draft-pick, the way they cap salaries, etc. So it's always exciting because you could be right at the bottom and a few years later you could be winning the Super Bowl. In English football (soccer) it's very different. I support, for my sins, West Ham United, and all we do is sell players to everyone else to survive. I could never dream of winning the Premiership. The gap between Premier League sides at the top and bottom is massive. And I think long-term that damages the sport.
Q. What's your target for 2010? How close do you expect to get to the existing teams?
TF: I honestly have no idea, we haven't even got the finished car yet. For me – make sure I'm ahead of Richard Branson. I used to work for him, we partnered together in an airline. So I'd like to see him behind me, that would be nice, not physically.... I think a good target would be to be the best of the new teams and I'd like to finish every race.
This Formula 1 thing is not about next year for us, it is about building a good package for both sponsors and our team, building a good team and building a solid structure. Building a house is about putting the right structure in, so this year's about putting the right structure in, having realistic targets, and moving ahead slowly. The great thing about it is that we can dream in the morning and say, 'Maybe we have a chance,' but we're realistic and I think as long as we have realistic goals and we have a plan, we'll get near the top.
We haven't come here to be in five years' time still at the back of the grid, that's very clear. No one remembers people who come second. If I say, 'Who came second in the 100 meters at Beijing?' you don't know. Everyone just remembers the man with the golden shoes. We're here to make sure we can compete, but we're also realistic. It may take us a bit of time, but we'll be there in the end.