Grand Prix Business Diary: Singapore

Formula One's spectacular night race sees it secure a new five year contract, a proposed 20-race 2013 calendar revealed, a new chief executive at Caterham and tributes to the late Professor Sid Watkins.

There was probably never any serious doubt about the event but there was, apparently, some hard negotiation before Singapore confirmed a new five-year deal on Saturday to stage a Grand Prix until at least 2017.

This was the last year of an original five-year contract, although there was a two-year option that covered 2013 and 2014 in any case. However an agreement for one of Formula One’s new generation of races – and already one of the sport’s most popular and glamorous events – has finally been reached after months of wrangling.

The Singaporean government were keen to cut costs where possible: it funds 60 per cent of the costs of the race and is understood to have found a way to reduce the overall US$120 million-plus annual cost of staging the event, which includes infrastructure (mainly lighting), track set-up and a bulky annual race fee.

Bernie Ecclestone, announcing the contract extension on Saturday, was unwilling to reveal precise financial details, however: “I always believe these sort of questions shouldn't be asked,” he said. “A gentleman should never speak about money – and last night.”
 
20 for 2013
With Singapore's place confirmed, a 20-race draft calendar was circulated around the teams at the weekend. Valencia, as expected, will fall off the schedule as part of what is likely to be a new annual Spanish race share with Barcelona.

The second Spanish race will be replaced, pending the conclusion of building work, by the Grand Prix of America on the streets of New Jersey, in the shadow of Manhattan. New Jersey has been given a June date, twinned with the Canadian Grand Prix. The British Grand Prix, one of only seven races in Europe, avoids a clash with the final of Wimbledon while Germany and Korea only have provisional status as it stands.

The Korean Grand Prix has been dogged by financial difficulties since the first race there in 2010 while the Nurburgring, due to host the German Grand Prix in 2012 as part of its race share with Hockenheim, is beset by financial and legal problems. The calendar is expected to be ratified on 28th September.

Going local
With the global economy dictating that large sponsorship deals are increasingly difficult to come by, Formula One teams are increasingly seeking out more creative sponsorship packages in individual markets.

For the fourth year in succession Red Bull Racing's cars featured the logos of convenience retailer 7-Eleven in Singapore, while at the other end of the grid HRT have signed a two-race sponsorship deal with Tata Global Beverages, for Singapore and the upcoming event in India.

Mercedes will also get in on the local action in New Delhi; in July it signed a one-race deal with Bharti Airtel, already the title sponsors of the Indian Grand Prix, which will see on-car branding and has already resulted in Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg spending a day filming a television commercial at Silverstone.
 
Meet Mr. Abiteboul
With Caterham expanding from a Formula One team into a road car and technology company, owner Tony Fernandes has made the next step in restructuring his senior personnel. After handing Malaysian Riad Asmat, previously chief executive of the race team, a wider brief covering the Caterham business as a whole, Fernandes has now appointed Cyril Abiteboul to run the team.

The 35-year-old Frenchman is currently the deputy managing director of Renault Sport, which supplies Caterham's engines, and will split his time between his old job and new for the remainder of the year before switching to Caterham full-time in January.

The remainder of this season remains crucial for Caterham, though: after two successive, money-spinning, tenth place finishes, the team was knocked down to 11th in Singapore after Timo Glock's 12th place finish vaulted Marussia ahead. Neither team has any points to show, but 10th place in the championship is hugely significant in terms of prize money and travel costs for 2013. Caterham have it all to do.
 
Remembering Sid
The Formula One grid came together in a moment of silence before the Singapore Grand Prix for Professor Sid Watkins, the FIA's long-time medical delegate who died last week aged 84.

Watkins was a safety pioneer for Formula One and while his day-to-day role was a sporting one, his influence in developing the sport as the multi-billion dollar business it is today can't be underestimated either: put simply, in ensuring drivers no longer routinely die driving Formula One cars the sport opened itself up to a new corporate world that had previously shied away from Formula One sponsorship. Sebastian Vettel, Sunday’s winner under the lights, rightly dedicated his victory to Watkins.

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