Whoever made the decision to utilise Lotus’ name blundered on one major factor – the F1 cars we are so proud to call ours are not even using Lotus developed engines!
One of my old mates from college dropped by a few days ago to exchange our lives’ experiences and to catch up on things, so to say. Whilst I am saddened at his present state of affairs, I am surprised at what he had to say about our Malaysian F1 team.
What shocked me was not the amount of money spent and being spent as well as going to be spent on the team in the years to come if we want to make our team as competitive as the big boys. The real shocker comes from the fact that the team’s inception and its brand name poses a riddle which only the powers-that-be can answer.
We have participated in F1 through Petronas over the years, and this year is no exception. The return of Schumi to the F1 active scene is seen as a great marketing ploy by Mercedes to get the fans roaring for something, even if Schumi seems to be beyond his years and domination in F1. Petronas really made a coup d tat in allying themselves with Mercedes GP. Despite their poor season so far, the airtime covering Schumi and the team helps to bring Petronas into the homes of people around the world, and this in my view is the greatest marketing strategy that Mobil, Shell and the big boys have been doing for years.
The question is, do we really need another Malaysian F1 team? Despite claims of patriotism or even the chance to grow our homegrown talent in motorsports, the amount of money used by Herr Fernandez in setting up the new team could have been well spent in key areas such as engineering, design and even race driver training with our current crop of youngsters in Petronas and even in smaller racing circuits. The hurrah surrounding Fairuz Fauzy’s inclusion as the reserve driver has fallen flat since he has yet to start a race for the “Malaysian” team! If he is not good enough, he should not even be a reserve driver. If he is good enough, he should be one of the two main drivers. Since the team belongs to a Malaysian (as claimed), the first riddle to answer is, why can’t we put a Malaysian on the starting grid?
The frail Alex Yoong himself got a chance to race in F1 (doesn’t matter he did badly, he got in!) when the team was not even Malaysian, so why can’t Fairuz be given that chance; unless his inclusion is just Fernandez’s goodwill gesture to the Malaysian people and government for allowing him to use the Malaysian name in his team. The decision to race a Malaysian rests with the team principal (Sir Tony) and we have to wonder why Fairuz is yet to take a grid position as yet. The team at present is not going anywhere up the standings anyway, so the exposure will do Fairuz a world of good for his future as well as other Malaysian F1 hopefuls.
The second riddle goes to the Malaysian government, whom Fernandez claims fully endorsed his involvement and use of the Malaysian name. We already have a brand carrier called Petronas in F1, so the poor people in the kampongs and hinterlands would like to know why on earth do we need two flag bearers in F1. Wouldn’t it be proper just to develop a Petronas racing team rather than form a new one and actively competing against the other? Two heads put together are better than one, we have this saying. Are we now telling people that Fernandez’s team will do better than Petronas who has been in F1 for more than 10 years now?
The third and most intriguing riddle should be answered by the government, Lotus and Proton. As we Malaysians all are made aware of, Lotus is a 100% company owned by Proton, even if they still have their own management, direction and competitive edge. So I was shocked to learn that the announcement of the Lotus F1 Malaysian team was not even their idea ... in fact the whole announcement and team naming didn’t even go through them, or with their blessing! How on earth can this happen? Lotus asked Proton, Proton asked Lotus, but both parties were in agreement neither gave their blessing let alone approval.
Then I saw the caption of the team and suddenly realised that whoever made the decision to utilise Lotus’ name blundered on one major factor – the F1 cars we are so proud to call ours are not even using Lotus developed engines! Instead, as captioned in TV for the world to see, Team Lotus F1 Malaysia is using Cosworth engines. Errr... I am not a rocket scientist, neither am I an engineer, but what on earth is Cosworth doing at Fernandez’ Malaysian Lotus F1 team? Are we saying that despite being in F1 so many years ago, Lotus does not have the capability to design and mount its own engines in its cars? I was also made to understand that there is nothing Lotus about the Lotus car anyway, except for the name. I couldn’t disagree, how could it when the company is not even involved in the team set up from the very beginning.
I shudder to think if this is yet another episode of Bolehland attitude being practiced by someone who thinks just because he is close to the administration he can do whatever he wants. The fact that Lotus and Proton have not even commented on this issue is perplexing. Of course, the companies’ bosses also have to safeguard their steady income, interests and vested interests not only in keeping their jobs but also the perks and extras that come with it. And I pity both Lotus and Proton. Rather than work hard to resolve the escalating production costs (amidst claims that the escalation was to cover certain ‘interests’) which baffles everyone and throws any synergies or potential partnerships out the window; they are now embroiled in yet another controversy, although not as earth shattering as the Scorpene fiasco which is about to hit the fan.
If there are riddles that can become folklore and legends such as those we treasure from our childhood days; the F1 riddle might make it into a halls of legend just in its first year!