Olivier Quesnel, the former Citroen and Peugeot world rally boss, has leapt into pole position to become Lotus‘ new team boss.
Following Eric Boullier’s switch to McLaren, the great British team’s chief Martin Whitmarsh was most strongly linked with the top job at Enstone.
But media reports suggest Briton Whitmarsh’s candidature was in fact strongly tied to talks with a major potential sponsor, believed to be Sony.
It appears those talks may have stalled, denting Whitmarsh’s chances and, according to France’s L’Equipe as well as RMC, triggering strong rumours Frenchman Quesnel, 64, is now Lotus team owner and acting team boss Gerard Lopez’s top choice.
RMC said Lopez confirmed Quesnel’s candidature.
But the report also said there are other names on a shortlist, with Quesnel’s at the top, and his prospects boosted by his links to FIA president Jean Todt.
Todt’s son is Nicolas, who is new Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado‘s manager.
“Lopez and Quesnel have already met to discuss the topic (and) a contract proposal was made,” RMC said, adding however that some at Lotus are sceptical due to Quesnel’s advancing years, and his F1 inexperience.
Meanwhile, having sat out the first official test at Jerez, Lotus’ delayed new E22 finally made its track debut at the same Spanish circuit last Friday.
Lotus kicked off the test by ‘tweeting’ a photo of the E22’s now-famous double-pronged nose, and in the background a magazine with the headline ‘Red Bull crisis’ could be clearly seen.
However, while the team did not divulge details of Maldonado’s maiden run, rumours indicate the double-nosed car, powered by the troubled Renault power unit, managed only a single lap.
Meanwhile, Lotus deleted an offending Twitter post and apologised after the team heralded the start of the winter olympics at Sochi with a photo depicting two men kissing.
Homosexuality is a highly sensitive topic in Russia, which will host its inaugural grand prix at Sochi later this year.
Lotus also has a new sponsor and co-owner in the form of Yota Devices, with the team saying on Twitter: “We would like to sincerely apologise for an unauthorised message … and will ensure this cannot happen again”.