LONDON (Reuters) - Talks with Renault for the takeover of the struggling Lotus Formula One team are almost done, according to owner and principal Gerard Lopez.
“I understand that Renault still have some things which they need to clear with Formula One and FOM (Formula One Management), but as far as we are concerned we are pretty much at a deal now,” he told Sky Sports television.
“It won’t be me finished because they have asked me to stay on, so when the deal happens, I will stay on,” added the Luxembourg-based businessman, who will retain a minority shareholding.
Talks between Renault, who previously owned the British-based team, and Lotus have been going on for months but a long-awaited announcement could come at next week’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Renault said in September it had signed a letter of intent to take a controlling stake in the former champions, who have fallen on hard times that left them in danger of going into administration.
The High Court in London has given them until Dec. 7 to finalize the deal and settle pressing issues, with significant sums owed to Britain’s tax authority.
In Japan last month, the team were locked out of a hospitality unit intended for their use after failing to pay Grand Prix circuit organizers. Their mechanics had to be fed elsewhere as a favor and their freight was delayed because of payment problems.
After the Belgian Grand Prix in August, bailiffs impounded their cars in a dispute with former reserve driver Charles Pic that was later settled.
A sticking point in the negotiations with FOM has been so-called ‘heritage payments’ that the French manufacturer, currently only an engine supplier, wants agreed before confirming its return as a works team.
Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Williams and Red Bull all receive special payments in recognition of their past contribution to the sport.
The team are expected to be renamed once a takeover is completed.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis