Michael Bailey: From the High Court to Kuala Lumpur for Team Lotus
Most of the F1 world has been taking in the miles between Melbourne and Malaysia since last month's opening race – but there has of course been another battle taking place in the High Court.
Hingham's Team Lotus and Hethel's Group Lotus have been at legal loggerheads in the capital over a number of issues regarding the iconic Norfolk marque – with the ultimate aim of having the moniker all to themselves in Formula One.
It has been a pantomime of epic proportions – with public falling outs and fans desperate to just see the matter resolved.
The 10-day trial, which finished on Friday, has kept to the theme as the likes of former FIA chief Max Mosley and Group Lotus' main man Dany Bahar took to the witness stand.
The fight is over who can use the Lotus name in F1 – the car manufacturer originally set up by Lotus founder Colin Chapman, Group Lotus?
Or his racing team that was always kept separate and was sold by previous owner David Hunt to current Team Lotus principal Tony Fernandes?
Who owns the good will and the history – the moral rights to such a successful legacy?
- 1 Norfolk pub named one of the UK's best eateries with a view
- 2 'I couldn't believe it' - West Norfolk villages hit by flash flooding
- 3 Landowner to close path after abuse from dog owners letting pets off lead
- 4 Could some Norfolk schools be set for three-day weeks?
- 5 'Help yourself' - farmer gives away tonnes of onions damaged by heatwave
- 6 Blaze near children's playground in Norwich believed to be arson
- 7 Product sold at Tesco recalled due to risk of disease-causing bacteria
- 8 Nine fire crews tackle blaze at industrial estate
- 9 Man in 30s arrested on suspicion of drug dealing in rural village
- 10 Car carrying six children not wearing seatbelts caught on A47
It may be early May before we see a verdict – and even then, there is almost certainly going to be a round of appeals. Apparently that is what you get with Justice Peter Smith.
And quite how you can resolve such a case without calling the likes of Fernandes and Hunt to the stand remains, as yet, unanswered.
Then there are the complexities of why Fernandes' team saw its original licence with Group Lotus cancelled – as well as the way Group went about joining forces with the Renault F1 team; something that has left a ridiculously confusing situation for F1 fans across the world and could yet cost either side millions in damages.
Apparently it is incredibly difficult to call on which side the verdict is going to fall.
Still, Justice Smith is away considering his verdict and most of us will have our fingers crossed we get a resolution.
What that decision is? Well, it is almost secondary.
At least it is back to the track for Team Lotus this weekend – and a Malaysia circuit they hope will show the midfield pace they lacked in Australia during qualifying.
Given the backing from Malaysia Fernandes' team has – it also races under a Malaysian license – the team is rightly treating Sepang as its 'other' home race.
Add to that its recently expanded driver training programme, and the team's infrastructure is building nicely.
Leading up to this weekend's race, Fernandes said Team Lotus 'returns home…there will be three teams here with links to Malaysia but only one team that has Malaysian blood running deep in its veins, with Malaysian staff contributing to our growth at every level' – which represented a little curse at Proton-owned Group Lotus and their current Renault project.
As I said, it will be good when only the performance on the track is the Lotus position.
• As Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a weekend off from Formula One duty, it was time for another Hamilton to shine on four wheels.
Sunday was younger brother Nicholas' turn to show what he could do – making his racing debut in the opening round of the Renault Clio Cup series at Brands Hatch.
Now this was not any normal debut. Young Hamilton has cerebral palsy – something that has regularly seen his F1 world championship-winning brother acknowledge Nicholas as his inspiration.
And while the name and a bit of extra financial clout clearly helps, you cannot argue with Nicholas' drive and determination.
But what was really impressive was that speed obviously runs through the family.
With only 10 hours more track time around the Kent circuit than me (which is nil) Hamilton was on the pace and finished in a more than credible 12th place – with the odd thrill and spill along the way for the Brands Hatch crowd to enjoy.
However, it would be a dereliction of my duty not to bring up Norwich's very own Josh Files, who was also making his professional racing debut in the series on Sunday.
And the Poringland 20-year-old showed he had plenty of his own pace in finishing ninth – which of course, makes him quicker than a Hamilton. Good lad.
All eyes will be back on Lewis and his McLaren this weekend when the F1 circus moves to Kuala Lumpur's Sepang circuit.
The Red Bulls will take some stopping again – but given we were all surprised by the speed of McLaren's recovery in time to make the MP4-26 competitive in Australia at the end of last month, what odds on them really exploiting the lack of a full Kers system on the cars of Sebastian Vettel and a no doubt determined Mark Webber?
It is only the second race of the season, but things are already warming up.
• We have to wait until May 8 for Formula One to reach Europe for the first time this season – and that will also signal the start of the GP2 Main Series for 2011.
The feeder category for F1 is making a big impact, with the likes of Timo Glock, Nico Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen and Nico H�lkenberg all making the step up into F1.
And this year there will be three Norfolk teams competing: Griston's Super Nova Racing, a strong iSport outfit based at Carleton Rode, and Hingham's Team Air Asia, little brother of Team Lotus making their Main Series debut.
This week the teams tested at Silverstone – next month will see the next generation firing up.
• My next column will be in two weeks' time – or the time of two grands prix, if you like.
There is nothing like the quick turnover you get from back-to-back races – and it's quite possible the F1 world will have been turned completely on its head.
But I bet Sebastian Vettel is still leading the championship…