The Lotus F1 team, after struggling for years, was last week finally taken over by Renault.
On the one hand that is good news for Formula 1 as another manufacturer commits itself to the sport but on the other hand it chips away at the sport’s foundations.
After the big manufacturers pulled out shortly after the war, Formula 1 was taken over, moulded and formed by some small racing teams and constructors.
They showed forward thinking by many originals, “racers” through and through, not least of whom was Bernie Ecclestone, and the sport prospered.
Drivers Jolyon Palmer of Great Britain, left, Kevin Magnussen of Denmark, right, and Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan Carlos Ghosn pose in from of the Renault R.S.16. Picture / AP
The Lotus F1 team name, racing as it has been over the past few years, has been a shadow of its former self when, in the hands of founder Colin Chapman, it was known for innovative, if fragile, design solutions and forward-thinking concepts.
As Team Lotus they entered F1 in 1958, winning 73 race victories, seven constructors’ championships and six drivers’ championships with household names such as Moss, Clark, Rindt, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Senna and so many more.
The Team Lotus name had its final race in 1994.
Since that time the Lotus name has been used by two teams and the historic marque became clouded in business expediency.
The DNA of the current Lotus team, for 2016 Renault F1, can be traced back to the original Toleman Motorsport team then Benetton Formula, Renault F1 (the first time around), Lotus Renault GP and finally Lotus F1 Team.
Since Formula 1 began its modern era since 1950, there have been 109 constructors who have officially entered a Formula 1 event: from Ferrari with 908 events, all the way to Wetteroth Racing.
That was founded by Curly Wetteroth, with just one entry (that being the1950 Indy 500, which was then a part of the F1 World Championship) and teams for virtually every letter of the alphabet in between.
Many famous names have fallen by the wayside in that time.
Tyrell, Brabham, Maserati, Cooper, Alfa Romeo, BRM among them and now it seems that the Lotus name will finally join those extinctions. Other not-so-famous names tried and failed to join the F1 ranks.
Names like Andrea Moda in 1992 which, despite entering 22 F1GP’s with their two cars only managed to qualify for three races scoring no points at all, or the Caterham operation that entered 56 F1GPs over three years but never scored a single point in any of them.
Even those big names left in the sport are mostly mere shadows of the original teams.
The most famous of all, Ferrari, founded by Enzo Ferrari, has become a much more corporate structure with business experts running the show. McLaren was only rescued from possible elimination as a team by Ron Dennis in the early 1980s.
Those greats of that era — Colin Chapman, Jack Brabham, Ken Tyrrell etc — were already having difficulty transitioning from what Enzo Ferrari called Garagistes as the 1980s rolled on, into what was fast becoming a corporate business of a sport with vast sums starting to be spent on wind tunnels and computer programming. Their era was starting to be a past era.
Apart from the new Renault team the history of some other teams on the grid reveals some interesting backgrounds. Mercedes F1, nee Brawn, Honda, BAT, Tyrrell. Red Bull Racing, nee Jaguar Racing (Ford), Stewart Grand Prix. Force India, nee Spyker F1, Midland Racing, Jordan Grand Prix. Torro Rosso, nee Minardi. Manor, nee Manor Marussia, Virgin racing.
Perhaps one of the purest teams is the Sauber F1 Team, although it has had more than one name it is still majorly in the hands of founder Peter Sauber but the purest of all in DNA terms?
That has to be Williams Grand Prix Engineering.
First race as a constructor in 1978 and with 638 races, 114 victories, nine constructor’s titles, seven driver’s titles and 3rd in the 2015 F1 championship, the team is still run by founder Frank with daughter Claire as deputy team principal and they and the team have transcended the ages to remain a potent force in the coming season.
Long may Team Willy continue.
● Sad also to report that Amanda McLaren this week announced that her mother Patty, wife of Bruce McLaren, lost her battle with cancer.