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Lotus F1 team to announce drivers by end November

LOTUS, which will re-enter Formula One next season under Malaysian ownership, could delay announcing its driver lineup until the end of November,

Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne today said the two chosen drivers would be revealed within the "next month and a half."

When the team was awarded a spot on the grid last month for the 2010 F1 season, officials predicted the driving lineup would be announced by Oct. 31 from a short list of six candidates.

"We'll take the best drivers that are available," Gascoyne told reporters after meeting possible crew recruits in Kuala Lumpur. "I think although we are a new team, several quite experienced drivers are quite interested in us."

Local media has speculated that Jarno Trulli could join the team when his contract with Toyota runs out at the end of this season and that the other driver could be a Malaysian.

Gascoyne did not comment on the possibility of hiring Trulli, but said it had not been decided yet whether one of the drivers would be a Malaysian.

"We'll have a Malaysian driver in the car, when a Malaysian driver... is capable of performing at the level, at the top of Formula One," said Gascoyne, who was earlier with Force India.

On his expectations for next season, Gascoyne said he hopes Lotus will at least beat the other three new F1 teams and compete with two or three of the more established teams. The car is predicted to be ready in the second week of February, he said.

"You have to be realistic ... Short term we have a huge challenge in front of us to produce a car for the first race," he said. "The start of the season will be pretty difficult... (but) we certainly don't intend that the 1Malaysia F1 team will be the team in the back."

Gascoyne said 30 designers were working in Norfolk, England, on designing the car

Lotus has been out of F1 since 1994. The team is operating with a startup capital of 165 million ringgit (US$49 million) and an annual budget of 300 million ringgit (US$89 million). It is funded by a partnership between the Malaysian government and a consortium of Malaysian businessmen under team principal Tony Fernandes, owner of the budget airline Air Asia.

Gascoyne said the team hopes to eventually employ some 220 engineers and move its base to a purpose-built facility at Sepang International Circuit, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix for the last 11 years, by middle of 2011.


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