23 December, 2009

'Shame' at Petronas/Mercedes tie-up

Petronas' sponsorship agreement with Mercedes Grand Prix for F1 2010 has left ex-Minardi ace Alex Yoong filled with a sense of 'shame' - and cast doubt over the financial viability of Lotus to make the grid next season

Alex Yoong has revealed his disbelief that leading Malaysian oil and gas supplier Petronas has elected to shun Lotus in favour of sponsoring Mercedes Grand Prix in F1 2010 – just days after the state-owned company had hinted that it would have no involvement with any team at all next season.

It was officially confirmed Monday that Petronas and Mercedes – formerly Brawn GP, double F1 2009 World Champions – are to join forces in a 'long-term' title sponsorship agreement, coming as something of a shock to paddock observers, with the conventional wisdom being that if it were to back any team, it would most likely be either Malaysian-funded 2010 newcomer Lotus or else Sauber, with whom it has been involved at the highest level now for over a decade.

“Petronas signs with Mercedes GP – words fail me,” former Minardi ace Yoong, now heading up Lotus' driver development programme, wrote on his personal Twitter page. “Mercedes is a good team, no doubt, but what Lotus is doing is completely ground-breaking and brave – and Petronas not seeing that fills me with shame.”

Petronas will also continue to officially sponsor the annual Malaysian Grand Prix held at the Sepang International Circuit, and the dual involvement betrays the statement made by chairman and president last week.

“Petronas started F1 as a branding programme,” he is quoted as having said by the Malaysia Star newspaper, “but we have since moved into the business. We had a very good relationship with Sauber that exposed our brand and gave us the opportunity to go global with our lubricants.

“It was also timely when BMW took over Sauber, and that gave us an opportunity to partner with an original equipment manufacturer. The years we were together with BMW and Sauber, we benefited from the lubricant business. Next year, we have no team and the only reason for us to go back into Formula 1 is on a business deal, for the lubricant business.”

The news also represents a worrying development for Lotus F1, with sources close to Crash.net suggesting that the funding behind the Norfolk-based outfit is looking increasingly shaky and insecure. The team has signed up former grand prix-winners Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen to constitute its driving strength for its maiden campaign of top flight competition.


- Crash Net

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