The survival of the Lotus Formula One team remains in considerable doubt but they have been given another week’s breathing space in the form of a second and final adjournment in their court case with HMRC concerning unpaid income tax and national insurance.
The original high court case earlier this month was adjourned for two weeks, against the background of a possible takeover of the team by Renault, who are quitting F1 as engine suppliers to Red Bull but may continue next year as a constructor.
Lotus have been waiting for Renault to confirm their offer for a 65% ownership of the Enstone-based company, worth an estimated $100m (£64m), which would be paid over ten years.
Complicating that deal is Renault’s continuing negotiations with F1’s chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, over payments they feel are owed them because of their historical status as a constructor. But Renault and Lotus have managed to convince the court that a deal is pending.
Summing up, Justice Birrs said: “The parties have satisfied me there is genuinely a real prospect the first stage of the deal being described will be signed in the next seven days, which will allow significant funding to go into the company.”
Meanwhile, Alexander Rossi and Manor had an embarrassing and potentially expensive start to their new partnership at the Marina Bay circuit. The American, who will replace Spain’s Roberto Merhi for five of the remaining seven races, was close to matching his more experienced team-mate Will Stevens when he crashed into the barrier at Turn 18, causing extensive damage to the right side of the car.
“I braked a bit too late and it was my mistake,” he said. “I felt quite comfortable in the car and the pace was OK, so we will improve on that for tomorrow.” It is feared that the gearbox is wrecked, which would cost a less cash-strapped team about £500,000.
Nico Rosberg finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the first practice session by 0.319 seconds. Hamilton was only 0.017secs quicker than third-placed Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull. The bad news for Rosberg is that there is the possibility of a grid penalty down the line because he had to take his fourth and final allocated engine for the weekend after Mercedes opted not to use the one they had in Italy.
Red Bull confirmed their impressive record at this track in the second session when Daniil Kvyat topped the timings with Daniel Ricciardo third. Ferrari’s Kimi Rakkonen was second with Hamilton and Rosberg fourth and seventh respectively.
This article was written by Paul Weaver in Singapore, for theguardian.com on Friday 18th September 2015 16.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010