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Zero option

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As Lewis Hamilton crossed the finishing line in Korea two weeks ago in a lowly 10th position, his championship hopes  and the astro-turf both in tatters, it dawned on me why he took the seemingly strange decision to join Mercedes. 

Put simply, McLaren hold Lewis back and cost him point scoring opportunities through less than optimal tactical decisions and general screw-ups.  Sure he might get another championship or two with them were he to become a ‘lifer’ but perhaps he needed to move on to quell the growing sense of frustration and mounting mistrust. 

Step forward Ross Brawn.  Perhaps Lewis sees himself doing a Schumacher under Brawn’s stewardship, dominating the championship for years on end as the Mercedes team grows around him and cash flows in from Germany. 

The world and F1 have changed just a little since those heady days, so surely they can’t ‘do a Brawn’ and leapfrog McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull overnight, let alone Renau… sorry Lotus.  They’re virtually level-pegging with Sauber as it is.  Their mutual hope is that the 2014 regs will enable them to do just this.  And Adrian Newey is going to be doing what exactly over the winter of 2013, sledging and necking mulled wine?

As a Hamilton fan, I had pinned my hopes on Lewis replacing Webber at Red Bull in 2014 as I’m sure this would be his and any other driver’s ambition; to race the latest double (probably triple) world champ in the best car on the grid.  That this didn’t happen can mean one of two things; that Vettel really isn’t going to Ferrari in 2014 and the Red Bull PR machine doesn’t want to even attempt to placate the desires of two of the three world’s best drivers in a confined pit garage, or that Red Bull just don’t want him full stop. 

Too much of a liability in the commercial world of fizzy energy drinks where everything is chilled, cool and rad, though I’m sure Lewis’ Gangsta Rap would sound great booming out of the Red Bull hospitality suite.  Sticking it out at McLaren for one more year to land THE plum job would surely be preferable to years in the midfield at Mercedes, so those ‘casual’ meetings with Christian Horner must have proved fruitless.

I’m a little confused about Red Bull’s potential 2014 line up if Vettel skips off to Italy and Webber to Queensland.  Surely Red Bull need one of the top 3 in the team to maintain the flow of good results and associated positive PR.  If not, which two likely lads will be drafted in? 

Perhaps Alonso will swap seats with Seb.  Don’t rule it out, peculiar things happen in F1.  Lewis may even win a race next year.

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Three Amigos – Lotus to JLR?

Every publication at the moment reveals the latest rumours regarding the demise at Lotus.  Truth is, no one has a clue what’s going on, but just as they were beginning to show signs of real progression, with new, improved models and model lines, everything seemingly goes wrong.  To us at least. 

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So what next?  DRB-Hicom appear to be spinning plates until someone comes up with an answer, hence the radio silence.  But I have a remedy.  It’s a long, long shot, but a JLR purchase of Lotus could benefit all parties.

Firstly, the idea of mating another historical British brand to those of Jaguar and Land Rover is appealing from a PR perspective, if merely a romantic notion.   With three brands covering different markets, and demographics to a large extent, JLR ‘lifers’ could be gained. 

Tata has turned JLR around relatively quickly maximising profit margin from relatively modest sales compared to the giants.  That would be the only way to keep Lotus successful without going more mainstream, and JLR’s ability is proven.  Lotus would fit under the JLR global umbrella well with such a prestigious name and would gain long term credibility through association with its big sisters, not to mention the ability to stroll through open doors to new markets already forged.

The two companies already share a future vision, of lightweight aluminium technology, not to mention previous collaboration on various projects including Lotus electric range extender technology, which currently resides in an XJ.  In addition to this, both companies place ride and handling as their dynamic priorities, a shared ethos which would see them slot together without much change in direction.

As for model synergy, the Jaguar C-X75 could provide modular elements of its mid-engined hybrid set up to a new Esprit, should it be required, as per McLaren with their one-size-fits-all monocell. The forthcoming F-Type could even provide the basis of a new Elan, more stripped out, harder, lighter and cheaper.

Lotus would have the opportunity to dump the Toyota lumps and use the new JLR supercharged V6 and turbocharged 2.0 I4 tweaked to suit their driveability targets.  If a front engined Rapide-style Lotus GT was ever to surface, they could mix-and-match any of Jaguar’s current or future platforms.

I believe the next big step after a merger could involve the creation of a city car, to be developed by Lotus who have consultancy form, and possibly seeing a new brand name as to not dilute either brand.  And no, this would not be a re-skinned IQ.  The very thought…..

So, you read it here first, Lotus to JLR.  And they wouldn’t even have to change the name.