Guest Author - Christine Blachford
ING entered Formula 1 becoming the title sponsor of Renault, and they were soon plastered across the entire calendar - advertising at Grands Prix, and being featured on the TV coverage at Singapore.
Now, with financial troubles hitting F1 from all angles, the sponsor have decided to cut back on their sponsorship budget for the upcoming year. They announced a forecast of a massive loss and have had to admit to redundancies as well.
This will undoubtedly affect Renault, although the Dutch company hasn't said what exactly their plans are for continuing their title sponsorship. The official statement simply said: "The remainder of the expense reduction comes from decreasing costs for our head office, marketing, the Formula One program, consultancy..."
It's a bad time for Renault, as they are hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. They were particularly slow at the recent test, and have had to come out and say they aren't concerned. However, they were spotted at a small airport in the UK doing some straight-line testing. It's not unusual for teams to do a little extra testing like this and we shouldn't read too much into it. I think it's too early to suggest that any one team are struggling, as testing times during the off season are not really representative of how things will turn out in Australia.
However, the other aspect of F1 that will be affected by ING's decision to cut back is some of the circuits. ING are the title sponsor for several of the races, and advertise at almost all of them. For 2009, they are scheduled to host Australia, Belgium, Hungary and Turkey. Whether this will be affected at all, has yet to be seen.
Organisers of the Belgian Grand Prix are particularly concerned. They have been struggling recently, and know that corporate tickets make up a lot of their overall sales. Roughly 3,000 tickets are snapped up by ING each year, and Belgian organisers are worried that they may not be interested in picking up so many tickets for employees and entertaining this year.