According to an article in The Times today, Team Renault’s chief sponsor, Dutch insurance and financial services giant ING, has decided to pull the plug on team funding with immediate effect. An official statement released by the company said, “ING is deeply disappointed at this turn of events, especially in the context of an otherwise successful sponsorship.”
Sponsorship funding provied by the company was said to be worth in excess of 30 million euros per year. Althgough ING had already announced that they would discontinue sponsorship after the 2009 season, they have seized upon Renault’s current woes as an opportunity to wriggle out of the deal ahead of schedule.
As if this weren’t enough of a blow, Renault’s second title sponsor, Mutua Madrilena, the Spanish insurance company, has likewise terminated their contract. The company’s official statement read, “The behaviour of the relevant people in the team was extraordinarily serious and compromised not only the integrity of the sport but also the lives of spectators, drivers and circuit personnel. This is something that can affect the image, reputation and good name of the team’s sponsors.”
Mutua Madrilena will continue to sponsor Renault pilot Fernando Alonso, however, which is seen as an indicaiton that the Spanish company is eager to continue their contract, a possible confirmation that Alonso will be moving to Ferrari next year, and taking the Mutua Madrilena funding with him.
If true, this might help Ferrari head Luca di Montezemolo make his final choice for a drivers’ lineup for 2010. While di Montezemolo has more or less confirmed that Massa would return next year, he has been coy about both Kimi Raikkonen’s future with the team, and the possibility of Alonso’s joining in 2010.
At this point, it would seem as though Alonso and Ferrari have signed some sort of letter of intent, which provides Alonso with a Ferrari drive conditional upon Raikkonen’s or Massa’s severance from the team. In other words, it’s not a matter of if, but of when. This much Montezemolo has already acknowledged.