06 November, 2009

1Malaysia F1 team in, after Honda , BMW and now Toyota pulls out of F 1

Malaysia will have its own team in Formula One next year.

Malaysia are very accustomed to bragging rights – see the Petronas Twin Towers, see Proton. This F1 team idea is just another one of our gimmicks.

A Lotus-powered racing team, to be called the 1Malaysia F1 team, will take on giants like Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault in the premier motorsports event next year.

Toyota has withdrawn from Formula One, leaving Japan without a team in motorsport’s premier series. Company president Akio Toyoda apologised for the team’s failure to record a single race victory since joining F1 in 2002 despite an estimated annual budget of around $300 million.

Honda and BMW have already exited F1 to cope with the credit crunch.

The decision by the world’s largest carmaker to quit the glamour sport comes as the auto industry starts to stabilise following a sales crunch in the wake of the financial crisis. Cologne-based Toyota’s departure as a team and engine supplier deals another major blow to the sport after Japan’s number two carmaker Honda quit the series last December.

The 1Malaysia F1 team will be a partnership between the Govern-ment and the private sector, including investors led by Datuk Kamarudin Meranun (AirAsia Deputy CEO), Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes (AirAsia CEO) and SM Nasaruddin SM Nasimuddin (Naza Group CEO).

The Malaysian-owned team will also mark the return of Proton-owned Lotus, the prestigious constructors who left F1 in 1994.

Malaysia hosted its first F1 race in 1999 at the Sepang F1 Circuit and Alex Yoong was the first Malaysian to race in the championships in 2001 and 2002 for Minardi.

It’s also understood that Proton are pushing Lotus to a F1 return. Proton, which is owned by our government, being the major stakeholder in Lotus, has the power to do so. But why would they do this? Lotus themselves haven’t shown a great interest in returning in recent years, could it be a ploy to improve the marketability of the Proton brand?

If this is their plan, well, good luck, because it’s going to take a lot more than a F1 team in their repertoire to improve Proton. Although Proton have owned majority of Lotus stocks for the good part of 13 years, can’t say much of their technology has been transferred to our shores.

Instead of pouring the millions into an F1 team, why not invest in improving Proton? They’ve been cash-strapped for the past couple years as their sales have taken a downturn due to stiff competition from the like of Perodua, Toyota, Kia, and others. Their quality isn’t worth much mention either. Would it be a lot better to enter a team into F1 as a credible car manufacturer first?


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