While previous accounts in the press had suggested that Malaysian oil company Petronas had decided to exit from participation in Formula 1, with the exception of their sponsorship of the Malaysian Grand Prix, reports now indicate that this is not the case.
According to an announcement today, Petronas have signed a multi-year deal with the newly branded Mercedes GP team. The official name of the team will now be Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team.
As reported in The Independent, an official statement by Mercedes said, in part, “The new title partnership also paves the way for future collaborations between the two companies.”
Clearly, this has all the earmarks of a long-term alliance. The Mercedes statement went on to say that Petronas would be able to “generate sustainable business growth, particularly in their downstream lubricants market, through the strategic partnership and business alliance with Mercedes-Benz.”
In a related statement, Vice-President of Mercedes motorsport, Norbert Haug, said of the deal, “Petronas’s home base in Kuala Lumpur is located in the middle of a fast-growing region for the automotive industry which makes this new partnership even more valuable.”
Both Peter Sauber and Tony Fernandes (head of the new Lotus team) had been hoping to secure Petronas sponsorship. In Sauber’s case, it would have been a continuation of a long-standing relationship. The team had benefited from Petronas funding during its two previous incarnations, both as a manufacturer team (BMW-Sauber), and as a privateer outfit (Sauber). It will be a challenge for Sauber to find a comparable replacement.
Tony Fernandes, on the other hand, had hoped to leverage his Malaysian connections to lure Petronas as a title sponsor. The Lotus team is owned by an investment consortium that includes Proton, a state-run Malaysian car companny; and Fernandes runs AirAsia, a significant buyer of aviation fuel.