It’s been known for some time that the Caterham and Marussia(now called Manor) teams were in dire financial straits and, in all likelihood, would not be racing for the 2015 season. However, when the FIA released a preliminary list of teams and drivers just before the Christmas holiday, there was yet another sunrise- the Lotus team was listed as conditional as well.
Though murmurings had abounded throughout the season regarding the team’s possible financial difficulties, not much was thought of it, due to the much more dangerous positions of Caterham and Marussia. It was also, in fact, assumed that fellow privateer teams, Force India and Sauber, could possibly be in trouble too, so even less was thought of Lotus in particular. Things came to a head when the three aforementioned teams threatened to boycott the United States Grand Prix, in protest of the sport’s income distribution model, which many contend disadvantages smaller teams.
As one of the more underfunded teams in the series, Lotus’ financial peril doesn’t seem all that surprising now. Though still on the list with drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, as well being listed for Mercedes power, the team appears with an asterisk beside its name, implying perhaps the same uncertainty ascribed to Caterham and Marussia.
It is possible that the Malaysian owners of the team are indeed looking to sell, or that they have run out of money. Assuming both Caterham and Marussia(Manor) fail to make an entry, a Lotus withdrawal would leave the grid with only eight teams and 16 cars, which would leave the grid rather sparse, compared to the 22 cars we saw in 2014; there are no new teams on the entry list for 2015, and Haas F1 will not compete until 2016 at the earliest. This raises the interesting possibility of three car F1 teams, which is an idea that has been broached by Bernie Ecclestone in previous interviews.