SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - The troubled Lotus Formula One team were locked out of their paddock hospitality at the Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday while freight, including engines, was also held up by payment problems.
French driver Romain Grosjean, who would normally hold a press briefing in the facility where team members and guests are catered for, conducted it instead out in the paddock with reporters sheltering under umbrellas in the rain.
Equipment was piled up outside the empty hospitality under a tarpaulin.
A team spokesman said there had been a ‘slight delay’ complicated by the time difference with Europe and well-documented cash-flow problems.
“The guys are going to do their best as always,” said Grosjean, speaking in the afternoon as the Lotus freight finally arrived and was delivered to mechanics who faced a long night building the cars for Friday practice.
“As long as they catch up by tomorrow at 2 PM I’m happy,” added the Frenchman, who is due to sit out first practice to make way for British reserve Jolyon Palmer.
Grosjean, who finished third in last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, saw no reason why the team could not again rise above their troubles.
“It does not mean we can’t fight for podiums this weekend. Look at Spa, we had bailiffs in the garage and we ended up on the podium,” he said.
“It is a situation which is very tricky. We are waiting for answers and confirmation for the future of the team, but the spirit is still there.”
Lotus are hoping to be taken over by Renault, their former owners, but the talks have dragged on and the team has had to fend off court cases and attempts to put them into administration.
They are due back in the London High Court on Monday for an adjourned hearing in a case brought against them by Britain’s tax authorities, just one of a list of creditors seeking payment.
In Belgium, bailiffs had turned up before and after the race to impound the cars as part of legal action brought against the team by French former reserve driver Charles Pic.
That action was later settled, as was a winding up petition brought by a supplier, while a problem paying Pirelli for tyres in Hungary was blamed on a delayed bank transaction.
“We are here, things are turning up late but the most important is that our group of people is still here ready to race,” said Grosjean, who is tipped to leave Lotus at the end of the season to join the new U.S.-owned Haas team.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly