Tony Fernandes argues that Lotus Racing will help to make F1 more of a global sport – and insisting that the Anglo/Malaysian outfit is ‘not here to be second’, the AirAsia CEO lays out his conviction that one day, the team will be crowned world champions in the top flight.
Lotus Racing is not in F1 ‘to be second’, the Anglo/Malaysian outfit’s founder and team principal Tony Fernandes has boldly announced on the eve of the 2010 campaign in Bahrain this weekend – contending that ‘if we continue on the [present] growth path, we will be world champions one day without a doubt’.

“Our timing is impeccable. [The fact] that people are moving towards environmental issues makes the car more interesting, makes the sport more interesting and reduces costs. It is a fiercely-competitive sport – to gain half a second you need a lot of work – but I think with the right attitude and the right people and the way Formula 1 is going, it helps teams like us. F1 is not a global sport…it will only become more global when there are more teams like us.”

The media hype and increased interest in the sport in Malaysia and Asia in general in the wake of Lotus’ arrival in the top flight has helped in the quest for additional sponsorship, with the team presently bankrolled by a public-private partnership involving a number of Malaysian entrepreneurs and businessmen after a hoped-for deal Petronas fell through when the country’s national oil company elected to lend its financial support to Mercedes instead, where it is now the title backer.

And finally, of course, there is the celebrated bet with Virgin Racing figurehead Richard Branson, with both the Englishman and fellow aviation tycoon Fernandes having made a pre-season cross-dressing wager, according to which whichever’s team comes off worse this year will have to face a humiliating forfeit.

“If I lose I have to be a stewardess on his aircraft, and if he loses he has to be a stewardess on mine,” the Malaysian explained. “Routes have been picked – he does London-Kuala Lumpur and I do London-Lagos. My cabin crew have already collected money for stockings for Richard, but not fishnets – we’re conservative…”.

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