Lotus returning to F1, Sauber handed lifeline

BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld may still have a chance to race in Formula One next year.
Lotus will return to Formula One in 2010 after being handed the 13th team franchise on Tuesday, while the seemingly doomed Sauber may also be on the grid following a takeover deal.

Lotus, which has had legendary drivers such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna on its books, will be back on the circuit for the first time since 1994 after gaining the nod ahead of Sauber and Epsilon Euskadi. However, world motorsport’s governing body the FIA has given Sauber a “reserve” place following the emergence of a new owner to take over from BMW, which is pulling out of F1 at the end of this season due to financial reasons. The FIA also announced that it is hoping to persuade the other teams to expand the grid to 28 cars next year, thus allowing Sauber — which has been bought by Swiss-based Qadbak Investments Ltd — to compete. “BMW Sauber will be entitled to fill any vacancy that arises on the 2010 grid,” the FIA said in a statement on Tuesday.

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“In addition, the FIA believes that a good case can be made for expanding the grid to 14 teams.” Qadbak represents the interests of Middle East and European-based families, according to the official F1 Web site, and will be fronted by Swiss national Lionel Fischer. The Lotus name has been resurrected by a partnership between the Malaysian government and a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs, and the team will initially be based in Britain — in Norfolk, near the Lotus Cars factory. Its technical director will be Mike Gascoyne, who has performed the same role for Force India, Toyota, Renault and Jordan in a 20-year F1 career. Lotus has already agreed an engine supply deal with Cosworth, and is expected to select from a shortlist of six drivers by late October to fill its two race seats for next year.