Team Lotus' plan to be renamed as Caterham next year has moved a step closer, after the squad was told ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix that its efforts would not be blocked by rival teams.
With team principal Tony Fernandes openly looking at renaming the squad for 2012 to move away from its Team Lotus moniker, sources have revealed that a request was lodged with members of the Formula One Teams' Association to sound out their support for the move ahead of it going to the Formula 1 Commission.
For the name change to happen, Fernandes will need support from 18 members of the 26-strong F1 Commission, which is made up of teams, Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt and representatives of race promoters, engine manufacturers and sponsors.
With high-level sources confirming that FOTA's members, which are all the F1 teams other than HRT, indicated they would support the move, the path is now clear for Fernandes to lodge an official request with the F1 Commission. This could happen in the next few weeks, so that the name change to Caterham is formally ratified prior to the issuing of the 2012 entry list, which normally happens at the end of November.
The key factor in getting the support of 18 members will be in securing the approval of Ecclestone, who has shown himself in the past to be reluctant to allow teams to change name without good reason. However, with the Team Lotus change opening the way for Renault to get more support and a possible rebranding and renaming by title sponsor Group Lotus, Ecclestone may be willing to support the move as it would clear up confusion over the famous name in F1.
Earlier this month, Fernandes said that his motivation for a change was in using a brand name – like Caterham – that he had complete control over.
"I always had a problem with, 'Am I really Team Lotus?,'" he said. "I always said that era was theirs, we were just bringing it back under new ownership. It was up to the fans whether they liked us or not.
"But there was a business behind it as well. You can't have a name and not monetise it. Effectively we are marketing someone else. I don't think this is healthy for anyone – Lotus Renault, Team Lotus, whomever.
"I've always said that protecting the brand is paramount and it's not me that started all this. I didn't have a claim, they [Group Lotus] had a claim. And they lost that case. But I've always had the door open and it may be a win-win for everybody and we walk away.
"I also always said we wanted to be in the car business and I never hid that fact. And now we have Caterham."