By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: Team Lotus F1 will be using the designated No. 18 and 19 on their cars in what is seen as a boost to their efforts to stamp their mark in their debut season in the world championships next year.
The numbers given by the international governing body for the sports, the FIA, are significant as it places the Malaysia-backed team as the highest among the new kids on the block.
Besides Lotus, three other newcomers have been accepted for the 2010 season – Campos Meta 1 (No. 20 and 21), US F1 Racing (22 and 23) and Virgin Racing (24 and 25).
A total of 12 teams will compete in the longest F1 season, comprising 19 rounds. In the fray are McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes Grand Prix, Red Bull, Williams, Renault, Force India and Toro Rosso.
World champion Jenson Button will carry the No. 1 tag to McLaren, forming an all-British partnership with Lewis Hamilton.
The “unlucky” No. 13 car is again missing from the FIA list.
Lotus F1 chief executive officer Riad Asmat said that the whole team were delighted with the entry list released by the FIA.
“We have received confirmation from the FIA that we will be No. 18 and 19. This makes us the highest ranked among the new teams,” he said.
“Everyone here is elated over the news and working hand in hand to ensure that we will have everything in place before the season begins in March. Our plan is to get the cars ready and test them at the Sepang Circuit by February.”
Riad has been shuttling between Europe and Malaysia in recent weeks to make sure the operations are running smoothly.
It is not just to look at the Lotus plant where the cars are currently assembled in Norfolk, Englnd, but also for discussions on the hiring of the drivers.
He said that they hoped to finalise the much awaited driver’s line-up by next week.
“We will name two drivers and a reserve. Negotiations are still going on,” said Riad.
Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy is among the candidates and the possibility is he will be the reserve driver as technical director Mike Gascoyne is looking at having experienced drivers to carry the challenges in the team’s debut season.
Paddock talk has former Toyota driver Jarno Trulli, Kamui Kobayashi, Takuma Sato and also former F1 world champion Jacques Villenueve in the running for the two main seats.