It’s back to black for 2011, but will it still be a Lotus?

Lotus Racing have set the wheels of 'evolution' in motion by confirming their cars will carry black and gold livery for 2011.

This season has been the Malaysian-backed, Hingham-based team's first on the Formula One grid – created from scratch by Norwich-born engineer Mike Gascoyne and Air Asia founder Tony Fernandes with the aim of bringing Norfolk's iconic F1 marque, Lotus, back into the sport following a 16-year absence.

The T127 duly sported racing green and yellow trim to keep the evocative theme coming, as Lotus Racing took to the track for the first GP in March – and will complete the final championship round in Abu Dhabi this weekend as the best of this season's three new teams, plus the potential to make a big competitive leap next season.

Therefore, the Hingham team's decision to switch from a Lotus of green and yellow – synonymous with the marque's inception – to the equally emotive black and gold John Player Special livery seen in Lotus' 1970s halcyon days seems a logical step for a team desperate to merge impressive heritage with a new, and genuine, lease of life.

Lotus Racing have also won new fans with their open style, including mid-race use of Twitter from chief technical officer Gascoyne and team principal Fernandes.

Yesterday's livery announcement also took that on a step, with Lotus Racing confirming the design of their 2011 look will be decided by a competition on

Head of marketing Silvi Schaumloeffel said: 'We have worked all year to make sure our fans are given unprecedented access to our team. We are all very excited about the move to a black and gold paint scheme for next season, and we want our fans to help us design the livery that will be racing around the world next year.

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'We will shortly be announcing exactly how the fans can take part in our design process...the person who designs the livery we finally choose will be joining us at our first test next year to see the car out on track for the very first time, so for Lotus and F1 fans it is the chance of a lifetime to help us take the next step forward in our amazing story in 2011.'

Chief executive Riad Asmat added: 'When we first unveiled our 2010 car there was unanimous praise for our decision to bring the historic green and yellow livery back to the modern F1 grid. The return to the track of the legendary black and gold will be met with even more universal support as it strikes such an emotional chord with fans around the world.

'Giving those fans the chance to help us bring it back to the contemporary grid is true to our core belief of putting our supporters at the heart of Lotus Racing; we can't wait to show what we come up with.'

But while the progression is logical – and exciting – the 2011 black and gold number may not be any more a Lotus than Red Bull and Sauber.

Fernandes' team has seen its licence to use the name Lotus revoked by Hethel's Group Lotus – who may yet step on to the 2011 F1 grid should it secure a deal with Renault F1 over the winter – while Fernandes' attempts to use the Team Lotus name instead appear to have hit a political, if not legal, brick wall.

How these issues will be resolved is still subject to much speculation.

It also remains open for debate whether Lotus Racing's new livery is an attempt to continue its links with those who hold a love for all things Lotus, or whether the black and gold spells out the first attempts to reinvent itself away from its earliest Lotus intentions.

Along with talk of 'evolution' was Gascoyne's admission the name of his current team is irrelevant when he arrives at work each morning.

And Fernandes' quotes looking ahead to this weekend's season climax at Yas Marina were similarly cryptic:

'We can hold up our heads up high to our fans, the Chapman family, the paddock fraternity and most importantly, to ourselves.

'There has been a huge amount of discussion about Lotus re-entering Formula One for the first time since 1994, but we spent this year looking ahead and not engaging in the talk about bringing the Lotus brand back.

'We went about our business in our own unassuming way, letting our actions speak louder than our words, and we will continue to do just that.

'We have a unique style and will always stay true to that as we move forward, up to the ultimate position of one day being world champions.'