Saturday, December 12, 2009

Italy's Jarno Trulli heads Lotus F1 shortlist

09 December 2009

Lotus Formula 1 team principal Tony Fernandes plans to name his drivers for the 2010 season next week with Jarno Trulli top of his four-man shortlist.

Trulli's only F1 victory came at the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix

Fernandes confirmed that Italian Trulli and Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy were on the list but that Canada's former world champion Jacques Villeneuve was not.

Fernandes said Lotus were prepared to pay for the best available talent.

"I hope within the next week or so we will announce the line-up," said the Malaysian aviation entrepreneur.

Lotus will have a budget of £55m for the 2010 season and Fernandes is not expecting instant success.

"We know we aren't going to be competing (at the front) in year one, but it takes time and we'll have a good basis for moving forward," he said.

Trulli, 35, is currently without a team after Toyota announced they were pulling out of the sport in November.

But the Italian has worked with Lotus's technical director Mike Gascoyne before, most recently when they were both at Toyota.

Canada's Villeneuve, 38, who won the F1 world championship in 1997, has been talking about a comeback and spoke to Lotus but will not return to action with the team.

Fernandes also announced on Wednesday that he had reversed the decision he made in September to stand down as team principal once the season had started.

"There was a reason for doing it at that time, because I think AirAsia shareholders were kind of spooked," the AirAsia boss said.

"Now they are beginning to see that this is no different from any other business that I own.

"I will stay on as team principal. Good leadership is to know when to go, I don't see myself doing this forever but this is not the right time to go.

"I am the glue that puts it all together and drives it forwards."

Fernandes went on to state that his target for next season was to beat fellow F1 newcomer Virgin Racing, which is backed by British aviation tycoon Richard Branson.

"I said that number one we have to be ahead of Branson, otherwise I will retire and kill myself," he added.

BBC Sports

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