Over the weekend I heard that the Brawn team had signed a new sponsor for 2010 and had some off the record chats about it with some of the people there.
Today I see that the story is in the open as Autosport has got Nick Fry to talk on the record about it,
“We’ve signed some nice contracts, and those will come out into the open when we launch the car next year, but we will see what happens. There is zero worry on our side,” he said.
Brawn has had a great year by anyone’s standards and look likely to win at least the constructors championship and the drivers’ as well. The car has had pretty thin sponsorship this year as it came into life at a time of great economic uncertainty as the world’s financial institutions rocked. At the same time there was terrible instability in F1 as the large egos in F1 were bashing up against each other in a process which led to the announcement of the breakaway series in June, followed a month of so later with the resolution and the signature of the Concorde Agreement.
With that milestone passed, Brawn has been able to conclude a title sponsorship deal with a company, I hear it may be an Asian company but that was from a non-team source and there are other companies looking for the title sponsorship deal who may become secondary sponsors.
“That (Concord Agreement) was a log jam because sponsors wanted to know what the situation was, ” said Ross Brawn when I asked him on Saturday about the team’s financial strength, “And things are freeing up. Everyone up the pit lane will find that things are now much better because we know what the commercial basis is for the future.”
I spoke to Zak Brown of Just Marketing, one of F1’s top sponsor getters and he said that he expected a few companies to come into Formula 1, who had been in a holding pattern waiting for the politics to get resolved. But he added that it would not be a ‘deluge’. Renault is looking for a title sponsor at the moment.
With regard to Brawn it is also worth remembering that as constructors’ champions, the team will be entitled to something in the region of US$70 million of TV and prize money from FOM. So they will be well beyond $100 million budget for next year at a time when budgets are coming down dramatically thanks to the resource restriction agreement. In many ways Brawn is a blue-print for the F1 team of the ‘resource restricted’ era; owned by a group of shareholders who don’t have to go to a company board to get a decision, strongly engineering led, buying a manufacturer engine at low cost.
The only thing is, how competitive will they be next season? Can they keep it up? My hunch is that they will slip back a little from this year’s pre-eminence because they are now in the position that McLaren and Ferrari were in 12 months ago of having to keep developing this car to win the title at the expense of next year’s. With the resource restrictions in place wind tunnel time is limited so any time spent making this car faster is time spent not working on next year’s car.
Ferrari has already thrown its efforts into 2010, I’m slightly surprised that McLaren is still going for it as much as it is on this year’s model.
Of course working on next year’s car is only any use if you have an idea – as Brawn did with their double diffuser. Ferrari seem to have for next year and you’ve got to imagine that they will be pretty strong in 2010.
Meanwhile Virgin, which has supported Brawn to a small extent this year, is going to be title sponsor at Manor and I think the team cars will be named after them, along the lines of what Benetton did in the 1990s. This was a model Sir Richard Branson was attracted by when he came into the paddock at the start of the season and I’m sure that he will be attracted by the idea of getting all the brand recognition of running Virgin-Cosworth cars.
He sees the attraction of F1 for business-to-business deals; not long after he came into F1 he managed to sell a stake in Virgin Galactic to the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund, a deal brokered in the F1 paddock. That is a good example of how well F1 cane work as a business.