Lotus on last legs in Japan

The Lotus Formula One team is teetering on the brink of annihilation at the Japanese Grand Prix, with Renault apparently unwilling to commit to purchasing the team.

Management has a court date with destiny scheduled on Monday in London’s High Court, where it has been battling an administration order over unpaid taxes.

The case’s final hearing was initially scheduled for today, seven days after the adjournment, by which time Lotus and Renault were expected to have come to an agreement after months of wrangling, but it was moved to Monday, 28 September.

“The parties have satisfied me there is genuinely a real prospect the first stage of the deal being described will be signed in the next seven days, which will allow significant funding to go into the company,” said Justice Birss, who has been presiding over the case, upon adjourning the hearing for the final time.

However, no deal appears to be on the cards today, or in the next two days, and administration proceedings will commence should Lotus and Renault be unable to agree to a deal before Monday’s hearing.

Lotus’ financial troubles are well documented, and the latest chapter in the team’s 34-year history was a cash-flow problem that prevented much of its equipment from arriving at Suzuka until Thursday morning, long after its competitors’ freight had arrived from Singapore.

Japanese paddock understanding is that talks between Lotus and Renault have dried up, with Renault unable to insert itself into the sport’s current commercial agreements, which are set to run to 2020.

That Sergio Perez revealed that he has agreed to stay with Force India in 2016 on Thursday and Romain Grosjean is widely tipped to be announced as one of Haas’ drivers next week fuelled speculation that the Enstone-based team, which began in Witney as Toleman in 1981, is a sinking ship.