This is gonna get confusing, so let me walk you through a timeline. In 1954, Colin Chapman went Grand Prix racing with Team Lotus. They did pretty well during the ’60s and ’70s, and in 1983 switched from the venerable Cosworth DFV engine to a turbocharged Renault in the 93T. (This is important.) In the late ’80s and early ’90s they fell rather heavily off their form — as Williams seem to be doing recently — and last raced at the 1994 Australian GP.
For their part, Renault started building F1 cars in 1977, developing a powerful but initially unreliable turbo engine and threatening for the World Constructors’ Championship in 1981, ’82, and ’83. They retired from F1 as a full constructor in 1985, but continued to supply engines to other teams until buying up Benetton in 2000 and returning to form in 2005-06 with Fernando Alonso at the wheel.
Fast forward a few years. In 2010, Tony Fernandes (involved with the Malaysian financial group Proton, which owns Lotus Cars) re-established Team Lotus (using the name under license from Group Lotus, which is not Lotus Cars) as one of three new teams entering the F1 ranks. (Like the dominant Lotus cars of the ’70s, these ran Cosworth engines, but to somewhat less effect.) In 2011, however, Genii Capital bought out Renault (the car company) as the main stakeholder in Renault (the F1 team, which used to be Benetton) and renamed its acquisition to Lotus Renault — under sponsorship from Group Lotus, which had revoked Team Lotus’s naming rights for obscure reasons.
After the dust had settled and the lawyers had been paid, Team Lotus renamed themselves Lotus Racing for 2011 and eventually acquired title sponsorship from Caterham cars — which, just to make things more amusing, make a car based on the legendary Lotus Seven — and renamed themselves Caterham for 2012. Lotus Renault, meanwhile, have become simply Lotus for 2012.
Renault have lost Group Lotus’s title sponsorship this year, but will retain the name Lotus until at least 2017:
Meanwhile, Caterham’s 2012 car — the CT01 — is running a Renault engine.
Formula One lineage is complicated.