New car, drivers and ownership for Renault

From left: Robert Kubica, Gerard Lopez, Eric Boullier and Vitaly Petrov with the R31

From left: Robert Kubica, Gerard Lopez, Eric Boullier and Vitaly Petrov with the R31

Just hours after Team Lotus’s 2011 car was launched, Lotus Renault GP unveiled their latest contender in pitlane at the Valencia circuit.

The car sports the famed black and gold ‘John Player Special’ colour-scheme to coincide with the team’s re-branding from Renault F1 Team to Lotus Renault GP.

According to team owner Gerard Lopez, development of the new R31 has been undertaken over a 12 month period – a move set to pay dividends this season.

“What most people did not know, and we can say it now, is that we had an overly aggressive development programme because we started development of the R31 in February last year,” said Lopez.

“People were working unbelievable hours at the factory. The basis of this year’s car we believe is much faster than last year, as a benchmark.

“If we can keep up with the same development rate as last year then we can move up a nut. And, if last year we did a couple of podiums, in theory this year we should be able to fight for some wins.”

The team also confirmed at the launch that, contrary to an announcement that Lotus had bought into the team, the Genii Capital investment firm owns 100% of the Enstone-based squad, after taking over Renault’s minority shareholding at the end of last year.

“We bought the 25 per cent left from Renault, so we own today 100 per cent,” said Lopez.

“Lotus is a sponsor number one, and they have actually purchased an option that gives them a right to purchase a certain stake in the team within the next two years.

“But as we speak and, for the foreseeable future, we are totally the owners.

“We have a lot of relationships at (Lotus parent company) Proton above the F1 level and that is really what makes this work.

“Whether they own 1 per cent or 51 per cent or 101 per cent , at the end of the day, it is a bigger picture that has really put this together, so in that sense it is less of an issue.”

Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean were also on hand at the launch having joined the team as test drivers – with Grosjean now a part of Genii’s Gravity Sport Management program.

The additions now bring Renault’s driver line-up to seven, with Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy, Chinamen Ho-Pin Tung and Czech Jan Charouz already on the books, in addition to race drivers Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov.

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