Mid season sponsor boost for F1 teams, but cash is still short

Even with Autonomy and Maxis adding to the sport's coffers, it is still well down on last season
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The Independent Online

Formula One's 12 teams will line up at today's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona with $18m (£12m) more sponsorship than they had at the start of the season according to new research by F1's industry monitor, Formula Money.

A steady stream of new deals has included $8m in sponsorship of Mercedes GP from British software company Autonomy and a further $8m which the Lotus team is receiving from Malaysian telecoms firm Maxis.

The sport needed a boost since it started the season with $705m in sponsorship – $115m less than in 2009. Even taking the increase during the season into account, this is still the biggest fall in the past five years and remarkably it comes despite the number of teams in the sport rising from 10 to 12 this year.

Lotus, HRT, Virgin and Sauber, the four teams which joined F1 this year, struggled to secure enough sponsorship to cover their budgets. HRT receives an estimated $32m from its owners and two drivers, with just $550,000 coming to the team from sponsorship.

Even Lotus, the best-sponsored of the new outfits, is receiving an estimated $35m from its owners. It puts in question the continued participation of the new teams since economic fluctuations could jeopardise the contributions from their owners.

Overall, average sponsorship revenues per team have plunged by 26.6 per cent to $60.3m. The drop was driven by the departure of several of the biggest-spending sponsors including ING and Panasonic which together paid $125m annually.

Some existing sponsors have increased their spend, most notably Petronas, the Malysian oil company, and Spanish bank Santander, which are contributing $55m and $50m to Mercedes and Ferrari respectively this season. This propelled Ferrari's sponsorship haul to $245m, a third of total F1 team sponsorship revenues. Remarkably this is a massive 445 times more than HRT's sponsorship take.

There may be new sponsors coming into the sport but it will take a long time to narrow the gulf between the top and bottom of the grid.

Sauber and Virgin Racing received sponsorship boosts last week with both announcing new deals.

Fast food giant Burger King revealed plans to sponsor Sauber for two races.

Meanwhile, US gaming group Full Tilt Poker has joined other casino websites such as Bwin and PartPoker in entering the F1 market, after striking a deal with Virgin Racing Group for the rest of the season.