Mercedes engines still our Plan B, says Lotus boss

Lotus owner Gerard Lopez says that the team’s deal with Renault is done – and now it’s a question of a final green light from the French manufacturer’s top boss, Carlos Ghosn.

Senior Renault executive Jerome Stoll is in Abu Dhabi this weekend, and he has been trying to finalise an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone over future payments.

“We’ve done everything that we could,” Lopez told this writer. “As far as Lotus and Renault go, we have an agreement. I can tell you the contracts are finished. Then the rest, let’s wait and see.”

Asked if it was simply a case of waiting for a decision from Ghosn, who is expected to make a call on Monday, he said: “You can say that, yes.”

He added that Stoll’s talks with Ecclestone were progressing, and that it was a question of a small difference in figures.

“I think that is being done in a constructive way.”

Meanwhile Lopez is adamant that if the Renault deal collapses at the last minute the team can continue with its current engine supplier.

“There is Lotus F1 Team with a Mercedes engine. We would probably cut down to what I always said. If we cannot compete at this level, we don’t want to be funding it the way we did in the past, then we’ll run it at say 300 people. But that’s not the objective.

“The idea is to do Renault, but legally speaking, I can still run a Mercedes car next year. If I need it, we have a contract with Mercedes. We do, trust me. ”

Lopez also denied suggestions that the team had been baled out by Ecclestone after its freight arrived late at Abu Dhabi.

“Other teams are asking for their £10m advance. We haven’t, at all. I read that Bernie paid for everything here, which he didn’t. He advanced by a couple of days out monthly payment, that’s it.

“It’s not easy because we are refusing to just pour money into something when we know that the decision that we’ve taken is to sell. If I didn’t do that people would say he’s a bit of an idiot as a businessman.

“I think we’ve done the right thing, first of all to keep 470 people employed. Number two we’ve shown that with minimal development, this team can score points, which goes to show what others are doing with money. The third thing is we’ve pushed on with this deal.

“Either we get more money, or costs come down in F1, or it’s a constructors’ sport. If it is, then I might as well be a constructor, which is the aim for this team with Renault. At the end of the day all that bullshit about the financials and so on, we’re always there, we’re always competing.”

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