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Key sponsors dump Renault but keep hold of Alonso
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Key sponsors dump Renault but keep hold of Alonso
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Sep 2009   |  8:39 pm GMT  |  85 comments

There was a very serious development this evening in the Renault cheating story. Two of Renault’s key sponsors have today pulled out of their relationships with the team with immediate effect. Title sponsor ING, which was due to end its $65 million a year deal at the end of this season and Spanish insurance company Mutua Madrilena is also calling time on its $5 million a year deal with the team.

ING quits Renault (Photo Darren Heath)

ING quits Renault (Photo Darren Heath)


However both companies will continue their relationship with lead driver Fernando Aloso until the end of the 2009 season.

The statement from ING reads as follows;

“ING announced today that in light of the verdict of the World Motor Sport Council of 21 September 2009 concerning the events that occurred at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, ING will terminate the contract with Renault Formula 1 with immediate effect.”

“ING is deeply disappointed at this turn of events, especially in the context of an otherwise successful sponsorship. As announced on 16 February of this year, ING decided not to renew the three year sponsorship (2007-2009) contract with Renault F1 and to end its presence in Formula 1 after the 2009 season.”

Both companies are able to exit because of breach of contract. But the timing is interesting, coming right at the start of the Grand Prix weekend. An announcement of this kind is bound to create headlines, but especially so in the hotbed atmosphere of a race weekend. It’s a serious blow to Renault and begs the question as to what sponsors it may be able to find for 2010.

Total oil was said to be stepping up its spend on the team for next year. So far the French oil giant is still on board, but if it too goes, then it will be hard for any company to associate itself with the team and Renault’s continued participation in F1 must be open to doubt.

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85 Comments
  1. Paul Bell says:

    Even though this is shocking news for the Renault team I can’t help but feel that this is simply perfect timing for ING. They had already announced that they were leaving Renault at the end of the 2009 season and the recent verdict from the FIA simply gave them an early exit and one can only assume a saving of several million dollars! Look at when Ron Dennis and team were found guilty for spying, its sponsors stuck by them and celebrated in being involved in a championship winning team the following season.

    I feel sorry for the hundreds of highly talented personnel involved in the Renault team and only hope they come back stronger next year and win on merit!

  2. Dan Jackson says:

    Go-ING
    Leav-ING
    Exit-ING
    Walk-ING

    Oh, the puns are endless.

    1. Radoye says:

      Cheat-ING

    2. F1 Kitteh says:

      Wait till you see this.. http://twitpic.com/hy7zm

    3. Finn says:

      Don’t you mean: the Punn-ING is endless? ;-)

  3. teamworkf1 (toronto-ON) says:

    renault has to pay a price and it could be more than $100 million! . . in this case the maFIA played the dirty “game”.

  4. Mel says:

    One should think what the banks did to the world was far worse than what Renault just did. Of course it was not okay but pulling such a stunt now is somehow ridiculous!

  5. Kevin Brock says:

    Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if NPJ had been using the airbags in the current ING adverts airing in the UK?!

  6. Steve JR says:

    Given that they would have been quietly all finished up in 4 races time, one wonders how much extra press attention / ink ING will get as a result of this action?

    Maybe it’s a case of the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity?

  7. Erik Cramer says:

    Alonso is damaged goods, even in the unlikely event of him not knowing about the plan he is damaged by association. I can understand the desire to protect him, a star driver responsable for turning Spain into an F1 fan country and it being an important market for sponsors. But if I was in LM´s shoes I would wait a bit before signing him, FM and KR might not have the star appeal of Alonso but at least they are clean.

    1. Lunchbox says:

      You can say that again Erik! I agree 100%!

    2. Ro says:

      Hear, hear. And if LM has already signed on the line with FA’s deal, I’m sure that (following Spygate, in which Alonso was also up to his neck) the contract would include a clause about disrepute. If I were in Ferrari’s contracts team, I’d be checking that clause preeeetty carefully to make sure it was watertight.

    3. Antonis says:

      Good point Erik!
      Maybe LM should sign LH who is crystal clear as we all know. The poor little boy was
      # simply following advice this year…
      # simply overtaking last year…
      # and, of course, of course, nobody in McLaren team tried to make his car go faster two years ago… McLaren was concentrating on Alonso, as we all know…

  8. Chris says:

    It seems to me, because of the announcement earlier this year, that the global financial crisis is the REAL reason ING wants out as soon as possible, and this has simply provided them with a short cut.

  9. The punishment meted out to Renault is a slap on the wrist for an offense that put lives at stake while at the same time putting in doubt the integrity of the sport. A higher fine and a longer banishment from the sport might be a good start.

  10. alex m says:

    James, I really hope you have read the Alonso Q&A at http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78824 …. here he quite clearly threatens to discontinue the interview if anybody dares to ask any questions relating to CrashGate.

    Does this strike you, or anybody else, as the actions of an innocent man ?

    Please do all you can to pin him down on this and let him know that nobody is remotely convinced by his weak denials and avoidance of the subject. The way he clearly seeks to move on, hiding behind the Kangaroo Court FIA judgement is possibly, his claerest sign of guilt.

    Sponsors, all from his home country, can leave as fast as they want to, but it cannot get rid of the awful smell that is hanging around Fernando.

    1. James H. says:

      Was Alonso under oath for his brief appearance before the FIA? If not, why? If so, was he asked if he had any prior knowledge of the crash?

    2. Curro says:

      He politely asks the interviewer to stop asking questions about the issue. Then he lands a few more and asks again to talk about the race weekend. Finally he gives a “no comment” but continues answering other questions. I mean, he’s just been professional. Let’s face it, nothing that he says about the matter is going to change things or favour him in any way. He can’t do anything about what you or me think. The FIA, Renault and its sponsors have reached their conclusions regarding him, and that’s all there is.

      1. Peter Hermann says:

        Alonso had someone with him from the Renault press office. This person asked the journalists before the start to 1. not ask questions about Singapore 2008 and 2. also not to ask questions about 2010. They told them Fernando would only answer questions about this year and the race.

        Of course, they still asked, in a very insistent manner i must say.

        Its obvious Alonso had been told from the team before not to speak about that. What should he do? Ignore it?

        He handled that quite well in my eyes, only making clear his own position and not react too much to the provocations of some of the journalists.

        You can’t be ‘everybody’s darling’. And for the ‘antis’, it doesn’t matter anyway what he says or not, they will always find something ‘wrong’.

      2. alex m says:

        Curro, you say “nothing that he says about the matter is going to change things or favour him in any way. He can’t do anything about what you or me think.” … when in fact, he has said NOTHING to try and change what we think. Hardly the actions of an innocent man ?

        All people want to hear – just once, nice and clearly – his explanation of how come he never ever questioned the highly unusual strategy and fuel loads. That is all, that is what we have not heard, just blathering about how the utterly corrupt joke FIA court found him innocent, despite the fact that they did not appear to make the slightest attempt to actually investigate his possible guilt in the matter.

        Despite all the money Santander are trying to bribe Ferrari with to buy him a seat, it seems even the less than lilly white Maranello boys are starting to wonder again about hiring the dodgy little Asturian due to the baggage he arrives with. If he does not provide a decent explanation, this will dog him forever.

      3. Tim says:

        Alonso has responded to questions about whether he was involved – he said that he didn’t suspect Piquet’s crash was intentional and that he had no involvement with “Crashgate”.

        Even if he made a further, much more detailed, statement about what happened over the Singapore weekend last year it wouldn’t help matters – people would still say “ah, but you can’t credibly claim that you didn’t suspect in the slightest” no matter what he said. He could apologise, renounce his Singapore ’08 victory and beg for forgiveness – but it would be a completely hollow gesture.

        One can’t prove a negative, so Alonso can’t prove he didn’t suspect a race was to be fixed in his favour, which makes a further statement seem rather pointless. If hard evidence emerges that he did have some knowledge then he has a case to answer, until then…

    3. monktonnik says:

      I think that it sounds like the actions of a man who is trying to get on with his job, and limit the amount of bad press both he and the team receives.

      I am no Alonso fan, but I don’t think for a minute he is guilty.

    4. Jason C says:

      I’ve just read the link you posted, and in no way does it even hint at any guilt on Alonso’s part. As Curro has said, he asked to talk about this season’s racing but then continued to answer questions about crashgate.

      There’s no rational reason why Alonso would have agreed to the crash plan. If he’d been threatened in the same way as Piquet, he could simply have walked into another team – probably Honda at the time.

      Did he need to raise his stock as a driver – no – although the car was slow, he was driving it very well.

      All the signs since: transcripts, statements, etc put him in the clear.

    5. " for sure " says:

      Who was witness X has been keeping me awake.

      We now know that there was a second meeting where X was present. That could have been a number of people including Alonso. I’ve seen nothing to expressly exclude him.

      Alonso was summoned at the last minute to the WMSC meeting, but we know from the interview with FIA Vice Pres. Ben Sulayem, that everything was decided in advance of the meeting and the meeting itself was just a rubberstamp formality.

      So why was Alonso there? Iv’e seen no explanation.

      This is where the pure hypothesis starts.

      Imagine it was Alonso at the second meeting. He has already said he had no knowledge but it is getting uncomfortably hot with all the fallout and speculation, and if he was there, chances are others know.

      His lawyers, probably without the knowledge of Renault, approach the FIA’s lawyers and say they have a witness to the conspiracy. In return for a statement they will not disclose the witness without first getting a guarantee of total anonym’ity.Maybe a guarantee of immunity as well, don’t think that was mentioned though? Anyway, hard to see how you can have anonym’ity and be sanctioned?

      Max is euphoric because up until now hard evidence has been thin on the ground, so he gives X’s lawyers what they asked for, X makes the statement confirming the discussion at the second meeting.

      The lawyers then say they are worried about the eventual speculation as to X’s identity and suggest that if their client appears at the WMSC meeting, that will distract attention from the possibility of him being witness X.

      So far as I recall, although the FIA have said that Alonso was not part of the conspiracy they have never said he had no knowledge of it.

      Further, to dismiss speculation that Alonso was X they could have very easily have said soafter the WMSC meeting, but they didn’t do so.

      As I have said above, this is pure hypothesis which has been keeping me awake. I don’t doubt some of those very well informed people that follow this site will quickly tell me the blindingly obvious points I have overlooked and bring the house of cards falling down.

      As they say,…discuss!!

      1. Tim says:

        Para 66 of the WMSC official decision states that:

        “The WMSC has not been presented
        with any evidence whatsoever suggesting that Mr Alonso knew of the crash plan
        or knowingly assisted in its execution and the WMSC accepts Mr Alonso’s
        evidence.”

        The WMSC decision also states that Witness X was first introduced to proceedings by Renault, not Alonso.

      2. Tim says:

        Para 66 of the WMSC decisions states that the WMSC concluded Alonso had no knowledge and no involvement.

      3. " for sure " says:

        Thanks Tim, I hadn’t yet seen the full WMSC report, I’ll sleep easier tonight. As a driver, if not a personality, Alonso has a lot to offer and more than enough damage has been done.

        I originally, and in some respects still do, thought Renault got off very lightly, but seeing the fallout today I wish the team all the best for the future and hope this weekend brings them some respite on the track.

    6. ronmon says:

      There is no evidence that Alonso was in on the plan. In fact, there is evidence that he WAS NOT.

      Mere facts won’t change the opinions of Alonso haters who have already convicted him in their tiny little minds. So be it.

      I would guess that most of you prejudiced idiots are Lewis fans. If it was that spoiled punk in Fernando’s position, I would wait for evidence before making up my mind.

      Cheers.

    7. Alberto Dietz says:

      Game, set, match Alex M.

    8. John says:

      I wonder if it’ll rain in Singapore this weekend.

  11. alex m says:

    clearest …

    no EDIT button…

  12. Ok, so they believe Alonso did nothing, as did I, poor guy was in the race oblivious to why he suddenly had the lead. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him to win, and he did win another race, but if this was why, then its equally as tainted as Austria 2002, and Australia 1998.
    Did McLaren and Ferrari get bans or suspensions for this? I agree Flav deserves to get turfed, his hands were in too many pockets to possibly be a legitimate leader. Renault didn’t tell him to do this, they were as much a victim as Piquet. Piquet most likely lost his job because Flav knew he’d rat on him, so he did what was expected and Flav questioned his character, need I remind the world Flav has been in headlines for beating his supermodel partner before. How the man can be trusted by anyone is beyond understanding. So he’s been in f1 a long time, probably paved the way for many drivers I like, and some I didn’t, but that doesn’t negate what he did. He held Piquet’s job over his head, and told him to crash if he wants to keep it, as I understand the story. In races where Piquet was running and Alonso was out, Flav left. He obviously never cared for the kid, so why should the kid be ridiculed for speaking out?
    Sponsors dropping may be understandable, but the culprit is gone. Why punish everyone else?
    Piquet should not be unemployable, Flav should be.

    1. Dal says:

      +1

      I agree with what you’ve said 100%.

  13. Jon Wilde says:

    Bit of a rush job on for Puma tonight to pull together new teamwear!!!

    It seems very strange both Sponsors have waited till Thursday night to announce a pull out, it seems like something bigger may be coming up. How many more blows can the team take?

    1. graham says:

      That way they keep the logos on free.

    2. Frenchie says:

      Good point Jon.

      I was considering getting some Renault merchandise trackside today. My girlfriend really likes their lanyards and I thought their shirts were kind of cool.

      Anyway, I digress. It sure will be interesting what they come up with as all the merchandise stands have been stating to get ready since Tuesday.

      I shall let you know later tonight when back from the track.

  14. F1 Kitteh says:

    Hope that Reanult is able to find a solution for next season, maybe we are witnessing a turning point for the sport right now, hopefully for a better and more accessible future for the fans . Oh, the yellow teapot paint job for Reanult would be nice, never cared much for the current scheme anyhow.

  15. Chris says:

    Bugger, Ferrari better start making some room on their cars for some more stickers.

  16. jeremy says:

    Let the conspiracies fly!

  17. Michael says:

    I’ve read an article on the gruelling process to paint F1 cars and apply the decals. How can they get this car ready for practice tomorrow?

    1. Andrew says:

      Can of white spray paint?

    2. Frenchie says:

      My hotel in Singapore is undergoing some renovations at the moment.

      I’ll ask them if they can spare some of that white paint. :-)

  18. eddyr says:

    Nice one Flavio
    We all know he’s not short of a bob or two- Renault should be pursuing him, Symonds, and Piquet for compensation! Piquet may have immunity from the FIA, but does he from Renault?

    1. Supervly says:

      My sentiments exactly – Does Renault not have some claim to that money from Flav now – we all know ING was going to quit anyway, he just handed them an easy quick opt out on their contract

  19. martin_tf says:

    I bet Mutua Madrilena reappear on a Ferrari in the very near future. This is a handy excuse for them to get out of Renault as for Alonso’s move.

  20. Filipe Viola says:

    I’m sure that if indeed Prost becomes the new team principal, some new sponsors may become available.

    1. " for sure " says:

      …and others will be heading for the exit as fast as possible. Prost would be a mistake at the worst possible time.

  21. Ed Knowles says:

    It is nice to see the two companies display some integrity and withdrawing their support for Renault. They have some principles.

    The FIA has said that as long as you own up to the crime of cheating it is OKAY with them. Renault keep the points and the money that it brings to the team. FIA says they cannot change the result of the race as more than a month passed but were able to disqualify McLaren for the whole season.

    1. ronmon says:

      Integrity and principles? A bank and an insurance company? ROFLMAO

  22. William McCone says:

    So is this the beginning of the end? Perhaps Flav, Pat and Junior can step in with a few million between them to save the team it looks like they have destroyed between them.

  23. Roger says:

    For me the lack of unity and support of these companies reflects very badly on both of them. Mutua Madrilena’s sponsorship bed hopping antics over the past couple of years are particularly distasteful. The fact that they continue with Alonso is hypocritical at best.

    As appalled as we have been at Renault’s troubles it would have been much more honourable for both of them to have stuck it out at least till the season’s end.

    I’m glad I have no relationship with either and I wish Renault could find a way to shame both this weekend.

  24. Wes says:

    Will and how long will it take Renault to change livery? Must be a big cost to Renault to manufacture/paint a whole new set of car panels/wings and ship them in time.

    1. Paul says:

      It’s easy – they are surprisingly lightly attached…. plenty of sponsors on one race deals, no point in painting on the decals.

  25. Budvar says:

    The whole Crashgate thing was manna from heaven for these two sponsors. Both companies still reeling from the financial crash get a rock solid get out clause to save them perhaps $15 million between them. That will go someway to paying Alonso in the future. Nice opportunity.

    Hope for their sakes that ‘witness Y’ doesn’t creep out of the woodwork and drop some poo on the other Renault driver of that weekend. But that will not happen of course, he is too valuable to the gruesome twosome.

  26. richard hughes says:

    Holy cow – thats huge !

  27. jose says:

    What a mess. The sponsors are looking for themselfs, it is understandable.I just hope renault find some money for next year.
    I am wondering what kubica must be thinking. It doesn’t seem a great move right now, if ge goes to the french team.

  28. Darron says:

    Looks like we will see a return of the Yellow Teapot, the car only covered in Renault and Elf stickers.

    James, Singapore 2008 title sponsor was Singtel – as is this year, not ING.

  29. Michael S says:

    This next week should be very interesting on how it all plays out…. I think by early week the driver market will start to move and sponsors as well as it looks

  30. Kirk says:

    Couple of things I came across just now, regarding how things are falling apart at Renault:

    Insurance companies cannot sponsor a team that causes it’s own accidents, so this weekend even Brawn GP will have more sponsors on their cars than Renault.

    On the weekend that Briatore departs from the team young Romain Grosjean has a little accident in the pants department. Bricking it already?

  31. Harminder Singh says:

    My question from a previous thread answered!.

    I’m curious whether ING are seeking to recover any money paid to renault between singapore 2008 and now.

  32. Werewolf says:

    The team’s name is ING Renault F1 Team. This will presumably have to change but is this allowed mid-season?

    Unless the Total sponsorship takes off in a big way, Renault will need almost to re-invent itself to attract new investment and a high profile team principle such as Prost may help here (although I would be fearful of his suitability in other ways). A star driver would help, too.

    The real damage, I suspect, will be in diverted energies, with development of next year’s car potentially compromised. Brawn worked wonders this year with a conceptual advantage under new set of regulations but next year’s cars, despite the refuelling ban, will be more evolution than revolution.

  33. Tom says:

    The team name was “ING Renault F1 Team”, so ING is as involved as Renault… they should be both punished.

  34. Paul says:

    Colour me cynical but I expect ING are far from “deeply disappointed”.

    It’s just what they need to trigger some exit clause in their contract. Given that Renault aren’t going to achieve much this year anyway and ING have better things to be doing with their money (such as give executive bonuses, no doubt) it’s a no brainer to use it to get out.

  35. Rudy Pyatt says:

    An entirely predictable outcome; that if falls on the eve of the race in which ING is the title sponsor; the race that “returns to the scene of the crime,” even makes the timing logical. They wanted to make a statement, even embarrass Renault. Harsh, but understandable.

    I continue to believe that Renault IS finished in F1 as a team. They may remain as an engine supplier. Sponsorship money will be thin on the ground for them after this. With their title sponsor pulling out in such a publicly humiliating way for them, Renault is now radioactive to sponsors. They simply will not be able to afford an entire team, not with the financial situation at large, not with the need to devote resources to the core business.

    Someone will buy the Enstone facilities, possibly at a bargain price, thereby maintaining or increasing the size of the grid. It will be interesting to see who does so. Possibly, Prost will come back into it this way.

    Unfortunately, I can’t see any way around layoffs there. That’s just too many people to carry as cost cutting takes hold — particularly if sponsorship is hard to come by. I doubt that ING will come back in just with a change in management.

  36. Craig says:

    Quite a stroke of luck for ING and Mutua Madrilena. They get to save some money, get free publicity, and appear to be on the moral high ground by ending their sponsorship with Renault. Somebody is going to get an extra-large bonus at the end of this year.

    1. Spyros says:

      A very good point! Much better exposure than just being visible on the cars for 5 more races… at this time of the season, we’re so used to the logos, that we really only see the colours on the cars, not logos!

      Anyway, the logos on the cars should be relatively easy to deal with (they aren’t actually painted on, are they?), but how fast can they redo the stitching on all these overalls??

      Let’s hope that Renault makes some long-term decisions soon, for next year, so they can attract some new people.

    2. BrightMinds says:

      Couldn’t agree more Craig. Free publicity, moral PR and they even save a few bob leaving early. Bas***ds.

    1. Michael C says:

      ha ha – very good

  37. F1Artwork says:

    Fair weather friends: Relationships as deep as puddles. McLaren’s sponsors stuck it out and were rewarded in the end. Banks; can’t trust them and you can’t rely on them. They should have stood by Renault to the end of the season and shown a bit of backbone, the culprits have gone and the rest of the Renault F1 team would appear to have ended up the victims in the end. No loyalty, very shabby.

  38. Realchamp says:

    Pressure on Ghosn will be mounting as Renault shareholders begin to ask questions.

  39. F1Artwork says:

    Just read this at the BBC website…
    “The Singapore paddock was fretting with talk of another scandal to come before the season is out and perhaps that is why few wanted to judge Renault and the “crash-gate” plotters too harshly.” Wonder what she means?

  40. Steve Mc says:

    Hi James

    I don’t know about you but, much as I enjoy all the off-track shenanigans that are part and parcel of F1, I am beginning to grow a bit tired of the current situation of lies, cheating and general intrigue.

    So I thought I would share this with you; I’ve just listened to perhaps one of the most inspirational people alive today talking, with incredible eloquence and humour, about life, sport and human endeavour. It has given me some well overdue relief from spoilt drivers, manipulative team managers and apologetic engineers.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/eleanoroldroyd/2009/09/zanardis_paralympic_dreams.html

    Alex Zanardi. What a legend.

    1. Chuck says:

      Steve,

      thank you so much for that link. It is an amazing reading and it proves the human category in Alex Zanardi.

    2. DAN says:

      Many thanks for this Steve.

      Alex is such a nice guy.

  41. Harveyeight says:

    I was told that McLaren ‘supported’ their sponsors all through Stepneygate. I assumed that meant that they kept them informed and answered questions. Renault, given the time-scale, didn’t have that option.

    Given that sponsorship is essentially publicity, I can’t help thinking that ING could have got more out of this. The Singapore race will probably be one of the most viewed this season. The Renault cars will circulate with the cameras on them but not decals. There will be so many cameras facing the Renault pit that ING might well feel they lost an opportunity.

    A bank seeking the moral high ground? That I have to see.

  42. Olivier says:

    At least ING has learned his lesson from the credit crunch. It is not business as usual as the FIA and Renault want us to believe!

  43. David Turnedge says:

    ING today announced a AUD 1.8 billion sale of assets hel in Australia and New Zealand in order to help recapitalise it’s balance sheet – the company was seriously knocked around by the global financial crisis and I think the failure to continue it’s sponsorship was excused by the Piquet affair, but by no means caused by it.

  44. James G says:

    Grosjean goes off at turn 17 in Friday practice at the Singapore Grand Prix – session stopped. Oh the irony.

    Great blog James. Thanks.

  45. Bo says:

    IMG and Mutua Madrilena. Remind me not to do business with these two companies that turn their back on people when the going gets tough. They try to be politically correct because in recent years this is the direction our society has gone. Blame everyone else for our mistakes. However there are still some people left on this planet that do not turn their back on people in need.

    IMG are having financial issues so they get to save approximately 15 million on this season’s contract, if they were to be honest and say we are pulling out as we have a clause and this saves us money, but to pull and run behind a cloud is pretty shallow. IMG has had more press coverage in the last few days and they should be grateful and not running off into the night.

    A few at Renault did something pretty pathetic and paid the price. Piquet did not pay the price, well he will because he will never get another drive for a top team, he will only get drives in mediocre sports car events to attract press coverage.

    If i see a TOTAL petrol station today i am filling up!

  46. Rob says:

    Bit late surely for the world of finance to start getting some morals.

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