Michael Bailey: More Lotus fun and games fill F1’s summer break
So it is back to it – Belgium, this weekend. How the time flies. Yet if you thought it was a quiet month's break for every F1 outfit this summer, you would be wrong. Or maybe rather than outfits, let's say associates.
I have tried my best to keep football well out of this column so far, but with more Lotus court appearances and a few choice news items springing up during August, the Premier League and F1 have become a little entwined. For one week, at least.
Hethel's Group Lotus – car manufacturer of the Elise, Elan, sponsor of the Renault F1 team in black and gold etc – and Team Lotus – at Hingham, owned by Tony Fernandes, green and yellow, started in F1 last season – were fighting over who can be called a Lotus on the F1 grid for almost a year until the High Court effectively ruled in team Lotus' favour earlier this year.
Both companies' ownership ultimately comes down to Malaysian hands, while Fernandes and Group chief executive Dany Bahar have seemingly played a game of politics – often played out in public – that has seen various ploys, twists and turns from both sides.
All of which makes it hard to consider Fernandes' purchase of Queens Park Rangers and Group Lotus' 'seven-figure' investment in Norwich City being revealed within days of each other as a coincidence.
Obviously no fingers are being pointed here at either football club. QPR's previous ownership – which included an F1 connection in Bernie Ecclestone and disgraced former Renault team principal Favio Briatore – was leaving a lot to be desired by their own fans.
As for the Canaries, a dalliance with possible investment from Fernandes last year did not come off, despite the confessed West Ham fan enjoying the idea of having a stake in all things yellow, green and sporting.
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And no blame now for City taking a helping hand from a fellow long-established Norfolk institution, one that enjoys prominent positioning on the Carrow Road press boards alongside kit sponsor Aviva and kit manufacturer Arrea.
The connection makes some sense for Group Lotus of course – the two have enjoyed successful connections in the past – but having shelled out �120m on a currently confusing and arguably flawed sponsorship of the Renault F1 team, and shed more than 100 jobs at Hethel under increased financial pressures, is there really any extra money to spend? Especially as the lawyers are still being employed at the High Court.
That's right. The summer break saw both Lotuses back in the High Court in front of Mr Justice Peter Smith to get clarification over whether Team Lotus' F1 car can be called a 'Lotus' chassis, as well as Group Lotus wanting to prevent Hingham's constructer passing off Lotus sports cars thanks to the team's purchase of Caterham cars a few months ago.
A verdict may arrive by next month – yet there are probably enough legs in the messy affair to give us plenty to talk about even when the next breather from track action comes along.
• Given the Lotus saga seems to rear its ugly head whenever there is a lull in the track action, it's good news the competitive stuff gets back to it this weekend.
And what a place to restart – Spa Francorchamps.
It was always my favourite track to watch the action on TV, and the one I came closest to making an F1 spectating debut at until an ill-fated attempt during a holiday in the Ardennes.
Spa is a classic track. One that never needed Pirelli tyres or DRS to regularly produce a cracking race weekend.
As it happens, the BBC Two documentary 'Grand Prix – The Killer Years' broadcast on Sunday night showed just why some many drivers and racing fans have fallen in love with the circuit at Spa. And just how dangerous it was with that, too.
Things are thankfully hugely safer these days – meaning we can concentrate on the title battle in 2011 without worrying which drivers will actually survive through to November.
It will feel like the start of a whole new season on Sunday for some – maybe apart from Red Bull, who could find themselves glad for their current advantages in the second half of the season.
That is the big question mark – will McLaren and Ferrari make a real go of pressuring Sebastian Vettel? Or is he just too far ahead already? I don't know about you, but I'm more than ready to find out.
• Eau Rouge is as spectacular as it gets in F1 – and it is a shame DRS will be banned for the weekend on the iconic corner at Spa.
Similar happened at Monaco, where DRS was banned through the tunnel due to safety concerns. But, as Hispania driver Vitantonio Liuzzi has pointed out, the tunnel and its enclosed nature is different to the wide open spaces of Eau Rouge.
As it happens, I spent part of my own mid-season break in Monaco and took a drive along the start-finish straight and through Saint Devote. Admittedly, most of it was at 5mph – it's a good job they clear the traffic for the race.
I squeezed in Beau Rivage too – the gradient on that straight gets lost on television.
But it makes you think, even the threat of losing the likes of Monaco and Spa on the calendar in future would make a serious dent in F1's character.