Formula One: Abu Dhabi GP Business Diary – 4 things to think about now

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix provided drama aplenty, resulting in a first win of the season for Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus, and underlined that the race has become one of Formula One's most commercially important events.

Kimi Raikkonen's well-deserved victory under the Abu Dhabi lights was his first since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. For the team with which the Finn has made his comeback after a two year stint in the World Rally Championship, though, it was the first since Fernando Alonso's win at the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix when the Enstone-based team was Renault-owned.

Since Renault's exit in 2010 the team has been primarily owned by Genii Capital, a Luxembourg-based investment management and financial advisory firm run by Gerard Lopez.

A tie-up with Malaysian-owned Group Lotus was subsequently announced, resulting in another name change, only for Lotus, dealing with its own financial troubles, to end its sponsorship agreement prematurely in April.

While the team, for now at least, remains known as Lotus Raikkonen's victory certainly comes at a timely moment, with Genii understood to be on the search for new shareholders – “minority investors” as the team put it a week ago. Whether being back on the top of the podium piques the interest of potential investors remains to be seen, but it certainly can't harm the sales pitch.
Setting the standard
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has quickly become a firm favourite of the Formula One community. A first-class facility, the like of which may never be built again anywhere in the world, and brilliant organisation from a Yas Marina team led by former Toyota team manager Richard Cregan combine to make it one of the must-visit Grand Prix venues.

As Jim Wright, the former marketing chief at Williams and Toro Rosso, put it: “There’s great warmth towards the event from the local community and business, great awareness of the event because they do a very good job of promoting it and they’re also smart enough to combine racing with entertainment.”

Eminem and Kylie Minogue were amongst those playing over the weekend, while the Australian V8 Supercars provided a noisy and entertaining distraction in between Formula One sessions. For the fourth year in a row the race was a 50,000 sell-out, corporate hospitality was full and there were some 175 yachts moored in the man-made harbour throughout the weekend.

Even the track, heavily criticised after three processional races since 2009, came to the party and provided drama aplenty as the world championship battle reaches crunch-point.
The price of success
Red Bull Racing are now just one eighth place away from winning a third successive constructors' championship, a sensational achievement but one that will come at a cost under new 2013 regulations.

The FIA and its president Jean Todt have developed a plan to boost the revenues of world motorsport's governing body which will see the 2012 constructors' champion have to pay US$500,000, plus US$6,000 per point scored in 2012, to enter the 2013 championship. The other 11 teams will pay US$500,000 plus US$5,000. If the rule had been applied this year, based on last year's results, Red Bull would have had to stump up US$4.4 million just to race.

A team like Sauber, which would have paid US$720,000 based on its 44 points from last season, is likely to face a multi-million dollar entry fee as a 'reward' for a super 2012 season in which it has already scored 124 points.
For the third year in succession Red Bull Racing agreed a partnership with local telco Du for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The brand is launching its new LTE 4G mobile broadband service and also confirmed it will partner the team at next year's Abu Dhabi race.

Meanwhile, Force India, unable to run alcohol branding for the many companies under team owner Vijay Mallya's UB Group umbrella, hit upon a novel solution for replacing its Whyte & Mackay branding. Following a competition, the team opted to put the names of British couple 'Wendy & Keith Murray' on their cars – a tenuous link, certainly, but one that will surely live long in the memory of Mr and Mrs Murray.


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