The future is still clouded, but Lotus at least has a full driver lineup for the 2016 season. 2014 GP2 champion and current team reserve Jolyon Palmer, it was announced on Friday, will be Pastor Maldonado's teammate. Briton Palmer is the son of former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, but despite his successes he is understood to be bringing millions to the troubled Enstone team for 2016.
Already this year, 24-year-old Palmer's appearances on Fridays have reportedly cost his father and backers more than $300,000 per practice session. So combined with the polarising figure Maldonado and his PDVSA millions, the team's driver lineup is raising eyebrows, because a letter of intent says Renault will soon buy Lotus and make it a fully-fledged works team for 2016.
Renault has outwardly lofty ambitions for 2016, as technical official Remi Taffin declared on Friday that a new engine specification - to debut in Brazil - will be worth a few tenths of a second per lap. As for 2016, "Our goal is to find between a half and a full second," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. "We need to close the gap to the front."
Currently, however, there is no confirmation even that the French carmaker's F1 project will extend beyond 2015 at all. Indeed, Red Bull is reportedly back in talks to patch up its relationship with its current supplier, but boss Christian Horner played that down on Friday.
"I think until they commit to whether they're going to be in formula one or not, it's difficult at this stage to take that (the talks) any further," he said.
So it means Lotus' future is also terminally clouded at present, even though the official line is that Renault intends to buy - and therefore rescue - the Enstone team. "It's difficult for us to talk in any great detail but we certainly have an idea of the route we are going to go down next year," said team CEO Matthew Carter. "We can't confirm anything at this stage but we certainly are heading down that route and things back at Enstone are taking shape."
The Renault situation means that not only Maldonado and Palmer's futures, but also the quartet of Red Bull-contracted drivers, are in very real peril.
"Well, I don't know," lead Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo told the Spanish daily El Pais. "I always try to think positively and I cross my fingers that the situation doesn't turn against me, but even if Red Bull decides to go I think I've done enough to get a few other teams interested."
Circuit de Catalunya - Winter testing
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing
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