SBD/Issue 150/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Sponsors May Force McLaren To Leave F1 If Team Handed Suspension

McLaren Mercedes Could Be Forced To
Pull Out Of F1 If FIA Doles Out Stiff Suspension
McLaren Mercedes "could be forced to pull out of Formula One if they are handed a suspension or a 'disproportionately large' penalty" during the FIA world council meeting next week in Paris, according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH. Agents "acting on behalf of key sponsors" have approached both the FIA and F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone "to impress upon them the gravity of the situation" if McLaren is suspended. The team has been called to the hearing to "answer five charges that they lied to race stewards in Australia and Malaysia -- cheating Toyota out of third place -- and procured world champion Lewis Hamilton into supporting that deception." A source said, "I can say that if a disproportionately large penalty were given to McLaren on April 29 then the sponsor that I am associated with might leave." Cary notes McLaren Exec Chair Ron Dennis left the team last week in a "thinly-veiled attempt to placate the FIA," and the source said, "I think we all know the subtext here; the FIA wanted to oust Ron Dennis." The source: "I believe the governing body have allowed this situation to escalate and it is doing no one any good. ... Apart from anything else, it is dissuading other potential sponsors from entering Formula One." Cary reports a two-race suspension for McLaren could mean the team would be "ruled out of the Barcelona and Monaco grands prix." Spain is a "key market for Banco de Santander, one of McLaren-Mercedes' major sponsors, while Monaco is the most important race of the season from a sponsor's perspective." Should McLaren be found guilty, it would mark the second time in three years the team has been "found guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute." It also would activate "clauses in the contracts of the team's major sponsors," including Vodafone and Diageo, that would "allow them to walk away from McLaren" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 4/23).

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