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…”.