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Petronas to sponsor Mercedes F1 team

Malaysian state oil and gas company Petronas [PETR.UL] will be title sponsor of the Mercedes Formula One team next season, Mercedes announced today.

The team, formerly champions Brawn GP, will become Mercedes GP Petronas with the oil company's branding across the car and team liveries in what they said was a long-term agreement.

"The new title partnership also paves the way for future collaborations between the two companies," Mercedes added in a statement.

It said Petronas would be able to "generate sustainable business growth, particularly in their downstream lubricants market, through the strategic partnership and business alliance with Mercedes-Benz."

Mercedes said their 2010 car would be presented in its new livery for the first test of the new season at the Valencia circuit in Spain on Feb. 1.

Petronas, who previously sponsored the BMW-Sauber team, will continue to be the title backer of the Malaysian Grand Prix - the third round of the season at Sepang on April 4.

"Petronas's home base in Kuala Lumpur is located in the middle of a fast-growing region for the automotive industry which makes this new partnership even more valuable," said Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug.

The deal with Mercedes will be a blow to both Swiss-based Sauber, in urgent need of sponsors after the withdrawal of BMW at the end of the season, as well as the new Malaysian-backed Lotus team.

Lotus F1 boss Tony Fernandes, who also runs AirAsia (AIRA.KL), had hoped to bring Petronas on board given that his team have government support and his airline is a major purchaser of aviation fuel.

The Lotus car company is also owned by Malaysian state car company Proton (PROT.KL).

Mercedes have signed Germany's Nico Rosberg as one driver and are widely expected to have seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher as the other if he makes a comeback at the age of 41.