The word linking Lotus Racing and Renault engines for next season isn’t new, but Autosport now reports that a deal has been agreed in principle between the two parties, which could see the Malaysian owned team use the same Renault customer engines as Red Bull. Lotus and Renault last worked together in 1986.

While Lotus is close to finalising the deal on this end, a major hurdle remains. It all hinges on whether Lotus can end its contract with Cosworth two years earlier than stated. When it entered F1, Lotus signed a fixed three-year contract with Cosworth that is believed to have no break clause, unless the Northampton-based engine maker was willing to exit the marriage. Nothing a handsome financial settlement can’t do, right?

How did this come about? It is said that Lotus originally sought out a new supplier of gearboxes and transmissions for next year (one of the major reliability issues so far) and Renault, who are willing to supply Lotus with that, upsold their engine to the rookie team. It’s a bit like when you order your fast food lunch, and they somehow convince you to take a large set plus dessert, when all you wanted was a regular meal.

However, both Lotus and Cosworth have denied any change in relationship. “As with the other new teams, Lotus has a fixed term three-year contract with Cosworth and we are very pleased it is happy with our engines and the job we have done for it during its first season in Formula 1,” Cosworth GM of F1 operations Mark Gallagher said.

When pressed, Lotus tech chief Mike Gascoyne said: “We’ve got a contract with Cosworth and there is no further comment to make.”