Formula One Business Diary: Brazil – LG, Cosworth, McLaren and Quantum

It was nine in a row for Sebastian Vettel at the Brazilian Grand Prix, a race which saw Mark Webber bow out of Formula One, a fond Ferrari farewell for Felipe Massa and the last roar of the V8 engines.

It may be the end of the 2013 Formula One season and the titles may long since have been decided, but several loose ends still required tying up even as the teams were packing away for the final time in Sao Paulo.

The 2014 driver market remains stalled as Lotus, and the rest of Formula One, waits to see if the much-promised investment from a consortium known as Quantum F1 ever materialises. Announced by Lotus owners Genii in June, Quantum (then known as Infinity) have supposedly agreed a deal to acquire 35 per cent of the team for around €120 million. Quantum frontman Mansoor Ijaz was not shy in an interview with SportsPro shortly after the deal was first announced, promising that Lotus would be “number one in 12 months”. Nearly six months on and the team, which is struggling to pay its staff and faced public criticism from lead driver Kimi Raikkonen for not paying his salary last month, is still waiting. Ijaz, who has attended races as a Lotus guest since the deal was first announced, insists that it is mere banking processes which are causing the delay, but much of the sport is yet to be convinced that Quantum is anything more than a lot of hot air.

LG out of time
2013 has been a good one in terms of Formula One central sponsorships, with two marquee corporate names, Rolex and Emirates, plastering virtually every Grand Prix with branding. But on Thursday Korean consumer electronics giant LG confirmed it is leaving the sport after a five-year partnership as a global and technology partner. According to the brief company statement announcing the news, LG revealed that, according to sports research giant Repucom, its Formula One partnership has generated 229,784 seconds of television exposure since 2010, the year in which it claims to have become the most visible brand associated with the sport. That is largely due to the on-screen credits LG received whenever timing-related information was shown. The brand which will replace them in that role remains to be seen, although few would bet against Rolex, which became Formula One's official timekeeper and timepiece at the start of the year, filling a role which appears worth its weight in marketing gold.

McLaren get animated
Despite a 4th and 6th place in Brazil, Sunday rounded off a dreadful season for McLaren, the first time since 1980 that the team has not secured a single podium finish in a season. McLaren is a team in transition: it is switching from Mercedes to Honda power for 2015, should have a new title sponsor to replace Vodafone by the start of next season and is about to promote a talented member of its young driver programme, Dane Kevin Magnussen, to the race team in place of the unfortunate Sergio Perez. But speaking to SportsPro last month, for a story on the way sports properties use animation in the December/January edition, McLaren's group brand director John Allert refuted suggestions that the company has somehow taken its eye of the Formula One ball by launching its animated series Tooned, or indeed its road car programme. “If this project wasn’t self-funding or better it wouldn’t have lived into a second series,” said Allert, who conceived Tooned, the second series of which concluded on Sunday, in 2010. “It’s certainly commercially well worth our while doing. I spend absolutely zero per cent of my time worrying about the design of the Formula One car – we’ve got people far better focused on doing that than I’ll ever be. We obviously are a marketing organisation as well as a race team, so would we rather be winning races? Yes. Is producing animation to the detriment of our racing programme? No, because they don’t correlate in any way whatsoever.”

A noisy exit
As well as Mark Webber's farewell, the Brazilian Grand Prix marked the final appearance of 2.4 litre, V8 engines in Formula One ahead of the switch to the 1.6 litre, V6 turbocharged units in 2014. The current engine regulations have been in place since 2006, with the rules tightened in the following years to restrict development and the number of engines used over a season. Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes won all but two races during the V8 era (the exceptions were Honda, in Hungary 2006, and BMW, in Canada 2008). And Renault went out on top on Sunday with Sebastian Vettel's ninth victory in a row for Red Bull Racing, although the French manufacturer also finished in spectacular fashion, with Romain Grosjean's powerplant exploding in a plume of smoke early in the race. Brazil was also the last competitive outing for British manufacturer Cosworth. The Marussia team, in celebratory mood after beating Caterham to 10th in the constructors' championship for the first time, will switch to Ferrari power next season, leaving Cosworth, which returned to the sport in 2010 to supply Williams and the three new teams, without a customer for next season. It will be one of many differences as Formula One faces one of its biggest – not to mention most expensive – changes in decades over the winter. The clock is already ticking towards 28th January, the day 2014 testing begins at Jerez in Spain.


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