Petrobras set to terminate McLaren deal as F1 explores Africa GP
Petrobras, the Brazilian state oil company, is to end its sponsorship of the McLaren Formula 1 team less than two years into the deal, the country’s federal government has announced.
Osmar Terra, Brazil’s minister of citizenship, described the company’s partnership with McLaren, which is reported to be worth £10 million ($12.8 million), as “an absurdity” and believes it does not represent value for money.
Petrobras signed a technical partnership deal with McLaren in 2018.
Terra told Brazilian news magazine Veja: "It does not make the slightest sense, it's an absurdity. This whole amount to have the little name on the helmet."
McLaren’s deal with Petrobras is, in fact, broader than that as the company’s logo also features on the uniforms of its drivers and mechanics, as well as on its car.
The Formula 1 team was also expected to use Petrobras fuel from the start of the 2019 season, but that is still yet to happen as McLaren continues to delay making the switch, although it remains to be seen if that is still an option if the sponsorship deal comes to an end.
Through its partnership with McLaren, Petrobras was seeking to promote its brand internationally and develop new products.
But Brazil’s new government has been keen to bring the sponsorship deal to an end since Jair Bolsonaro officially became the country’s president earlier this year.
Roberto Castello Branco, Petrobras president, recently told Globo News that it would stop supporting McLaren, saying: "It does not make sense for a company from an emerging, lower-income economy country to fund a competition team from a developed country."
However, Petrobras is likely to have to pay a fee to terminate its contract with McLaren.
Despite having a total of 32 partners, the unexpected loss of Petrobras would be a blow to McLaren as the Brazilian company also provides transmission oil for the team’s cars.
McLaren could now be forced to seek a new technical partner during the season with 16 races still to go.
Meanwhile, Formula 1 is keen to stage a Grand Prix in Africa again and has been in talks about placing a race in either Morocco or South Africa.
The two countries have previously hosted races, with the last Grand Prix in the continent taking place in South Africa in 1993.
Sean Bratches, Formula 1's managing director, said: “We race on five continents now and the last habitable continent that we don’t race in is Africa. We’ve been having very productive conversations in South Africa and to a lesser extent in Morocco about bringing a grand prix... we’re on it. It’s really important to us. We have proactively been approached by Morocco and Marrakech to take a grand prix there. There is a high degree of interest."
Formula 1 last staged a race in Morocco in 1958 in Casablanca.
Since the 2016-17 season, Formula E, the international electric car racing series, has held an annual race in Marrakech.
Earlier this week, Formula 1 announced that it will return to the Netherlands with Zandvoort added to the 2020 calendar, while Vietnam will make its debut next year with a race taking place in the capital, Hanoi.
The contracts of the British, German, Italian, Mexican and Spanish rounds all expire this year, and there are reports that up to three could drop off the schedule.
If no races are axed then there is the prospect of a record 23 Formula 1 rounds next year. This comes at a time when the teams are thought to want to keep the schedule at 21 or potentially fewer.
Bratches added that he’s “optimistic” the calendar will feature 21 races again next year and does not expect to have more than that.
Liberty Media, the US media giant which owns F1, has also been working on plans to take races to Miami and Las Vegas, as it seeks a second US round on top of the country's established grand prix in Austin, Texas.Sportcal