Williams unveil £30m sponsorship deal

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The Independent Online

While Sir Frank Williams hedged around the identity of his second driver yesterday, his team - and Formula One's corporate credibility - received a boost as he announced that the Royal Bank of Scotland will be one of his major financial backers.

The sport has fought internal disputes and shortage of funding in recent months, but Howard Moody, group director of communications for RBS, said: "Banks are good at assessing risks. We assessed the components of the risk and compared it with all the other alternatives. There is no silver bullet to deliver recognition. Formula One is not alone in facing issues, but its international brand-building reach through television audiences presented the best investment."

RBS is the world's sixth biggest bank and the second biggest in Europe. The deal, believed to be worth £10m a year for "at least" three years, enhances the respectability of Formula One, and is yet another sign that the days of tobacco sponsorship are all but over.

"RBS brings more pressure and further responsibility to another party," Williams said. "In 2004 we built an inadequate car, which was our own fault, and we are determined not to make the same mistake again. Until all the new cars run we won't know how the new regulations have affected everyone, and where we stand. Trite words, but we have to wait for the truth."

On the subject of whether Antonio Pizzonia or Nick Heidfeld would partner the team leader Mark Webber, Williams said that a decision would be taken before their new car appears at Valencia on 31 January.

Meanwhile, Christian Horner, whose Arden International team dominated Formula 3000 for the last two years with Bjorn Wirdheim and Vitantonio Liuzzi, will be named to a management position at Red Bull Racing today, when other dramatic changes are expected. Horner had previously been trying to buy Jordan.