It has been revealed late this afternoon that the Lotus team is embroiled in a legal battle with former reserve driver Charles Pic that could result in its cars being unable to leave Spa following Sunday’s Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix.
Former Marussia and Caterham driver Pic was signed early last year by Lotus as back up to regulars Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, and subsequently released at the end of the season.
However after seeking legal advice, Pic has opted to take Lotus to court, believing that the Lotus team reneged on its deal to provide him with a certain number of days behind the wheel of its E22.
Lotus encountered major issues early last season with Renault’s power unit following the introduction of the 1.6-litre V6 turbo-charged systems. Once subsequently up to speed; the team then took the decision to allow Grosjean and Maldonado the time required to become accustomed to the car and power unit.
With Pic seeking legal advice and taking the team to court at the moment, the case is currently in the hands of an arbitration court.
In trying to expedite matters, Pic yesterday managed to acquire an attachment order from a Belgian court that effectively prevents Lotus’ cars and equipment from leaving the circuit come the conclusion of the grand prix.
It is understood Lotus believe the ‘conservatory impounding’ to be invalid as the matter is presently in the hands of the arbitration court. Lawyers from both parties are currently locked in discussions designed to find a solution.
In an interview with the media today, Team Principal Gerard Lopez has stated the following about the legal case as follows:-
‘We are having our legal department look at it. This will be solved, and solved in a manner that is adequate. We know there is a difference in the number of the days [Pic should have driven], but I know we’ll find an amicable solution, and the show goes on.
‘I think the cars will leave as planned. I don’t envisage there being an issue. I know there will be a resolution.’
The situation was further complicated for Lotus on Thursday as three members of its personnel (consisting of the team manager, technical director and team co-ordinator) remained behind to ‘guard’ the cars and equipment beyond F1’s 11pm curfew. As the trio were deemed to be ‘associated with the operation of the car’, they were forced to explain their presence to the stewards on Friday morning.
Due to what has been described as “extraneous circumstances” by the stewards they decided the “incident will not be considered as one of the two [curfew] exceptions” allowed under the sporting regulations.
A statement from the stewards said the following about the curfew being broken as follows:-
‘The reason is this matter was neither sporting nor technical in nature, and involved no work being performed by the team.’
Deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi told the media this afternoon the following regarding the latest with the case against the team as follows:-
‘There is an order that took place last night related to one of our third drivers, that has not been resolved and has been going on for some time now. The lawyers are talking and we’re trying to find a solution for this weekend. We are hopeful of doing that, of trying to find a balanced agreement.’
From what Lopez and Gastaldi have stated to the media this afternoon in their interviews; it is clear that the situation is more complex than we realise and there is probably more behind this than we realise. This will not help the Lotus team who it is to be believed in talks with Renault who may want to buy the team and turn it into a works team for 2017.
But it is clear that there is an order in place and the situation has been going on for quite some time. All Lotus can do is work with their legal team and Pic’s legal team and try to find a legal solution that benefits all parties and that the matter is resolved as quickly as possible and both parties can move on from this as a result. And I hope that the matter is resolved as quickly as possible and to everyone’s satisfaction and doesn’t affect the team going racing in the near future.