Goodbye Martini, Hello ROKiT And BAT As Williams And McLaren F1 Announce New Sponsors
Formula 1 sponsors are, as the British enjoy saying, like buses. You wait however long for one to come along, then three appear at the same time. The shortage of title sponsors on F1 cars has for some years been conspicuous, certainly compared with the days of comparative plenty when multiple brands, particularly tobacco ones, featured on paintjobs up and down the grid until around the mid-2000s. Two of the new sponsors that have just announced are associated with famous old British teams that have hit hard times. Williams has unveiled its car for the forthcoming 2019 season and it’s in unfamiliar colors. This reflects that its five-year contract with previous title sponsor Martini had come to an end and in its place has stepped ROKiT, an emerging telecommunications company, which among other things offers smartphone technology and WiFi networks. It even has an F1, and Williams, heritage of sorts as its co-founder Jonathan Kendrick worked as an engineer with tire supplier Goodyear and even engineered Williams driver Alan Jones’ tires in the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix (below). Kendrick later started his business career bringing then-unknown Yokohama tires to market.
Earlier that day meanwhile McLaren announced that it had signed a multi-year “global partnership” with British American Tobacco, the company that owned the BAR team which raced in F1 from 1999 until 2005 and had its cars liveried with BAT tobacco brands. BAT said it would have “on-car and off-car presence throughout the season” with McLaren and that it would be “at all times in line with applicable regulation and legislation”, while McLaren added that the partnership would be “focused solely on BAT’s potentially reduced risk products and grounded in technology and innovation”. McLaren’s 2019 car is to be unveiled later this week. McLaren added that the partnership would also include the F1 team’s sister company McLaren Applied Technologies, which is to “work with BAT on areas including battery technology and advanced materials”.
It comes at a time when the Ferrari team’s ‘Mission Winnow’ sponsorship from Philip Morris International–a company associated most commonly in F1 historically with the Marlboro brand–is coming under scrutiny, with reports that Australia’s Department of Health and Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services are exploring whether the branding is in breach of tobacco advertising bans. In addition, the Australian Communications and Media Authority is investigating after local TV broadcast Mission Winnow-liveried Ferraris in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. Completing the trio, Liqui Moly–a manufacturer of oils, lubricants and additives–confirmed that it has signed a deal to provide trackside signage advertising in 11 F1 grands prix this year, starting with the Bahrain round in late March. It’s not the first time the German firm has been involved in F1, as it partnered with the Jordan team on and off in the early 2000s as well as being featured on the Sauber’s livery in 1993.