Lotus’ woes took an embarrassing new twist on Thursday as the cash-strapped Formula One team were locked out of paddock hospitality in Suzuka and left anxiously waiting for their engines in a row over payments.

Other freight was also delayed and instead of being interviewed in the team’s on-site suite, French driver Romain Grosjean was left chatting in the rain to reporters huddled under umbrellas.

Equipment which had arrived for this week’s Japanese Grand Prix was stacked up outside under a protective sheet, with team officials blaming the time difference with Europe for delaying payments to track authorities.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t fight for the podium,” said Grosjean. “At Spa we had bailiffs in the garage and we ended up on the podium,” added the Frenchman, who finished third in Belgium last month. 

“As long as they catch up by tomorrow, I’m happy. It is a situation which is very tricky. We’re waiting for answers but the spirit is still there. The guys are going to do their best as always.”

As their preparations for Japan were badly hit, Lotus mechanics prepared to burn the midnight oil to set up the cars for Friday’s practice.

“We are here,” said Grosjean, who is tipped to leave Lotus for the new American-owned Haas team next season. “The most important thing is that we are ready to race.”

Troubled Lotus hope to be taken over by former owners Renault but as negotiations continue, the threat of court cases and administration has added to a growing sense of uncertainty about the team’s future.

Team lawyers have a date in the London High Court on Monday as they fight going into administration in a lawsuit brought by the British tax authorities.

As Lotus’s financial plight worsened last month, bailiffs arrived at the Spa paddock to impound the team’s equipment as their rivals were packing up to go home. – Agence France-Presse

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