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Grand Prix Business Diary: Spain

14 May 2012 | Posted in Notes & Insights | By David Cushnan | Contact the author

Grand Prix Business Diary: Spain

Although marred by the appalling post-race fire in the team's garage Williams' first Formula One victory since Juan Pablo Montoya won the final race of the 2004 season was fully deserved and one of the most popular results in a long time. No other Formula One team generates such goodwill or respect in the paddock and much of that is down to team principal Sir Frank Williams, who received congratulations from all and sundry at the weekend after his recent 70th birthday.

Sir Frank, though, was quick to pay tribute to the team's former chief executive Adam Parr as the man who instigated the many personnel changes that have seen the team return to winning ways following a dismal 2011.

Sir Frank was quick to pay tribute to former chief executive Adam Parr

Parr resigned in March, with speculation suggesting a clash with Bernie Ecclestone over the commercial future of the sport had made his position untenable. Parr certainly had his detractors but the evidence this season so far suggests his decision-making was right on the money.


Spain prepares to alternate

Spain's perilous economy seems very much at-odds with hosting two Grands Prix within six weeks as it will do this year and in Barcelona there was confirmation over the weekend from Bernie Ecclestone that as of next season the Spanish Grand Prix will alternate annually between the Circuit de Catalunya and Valencia's street circuit. Ecclestone also cast doubt on the return of the French Grand Prix.

The Paul Ricard circuit in the south of the country had been tipped to host - it is, incidentally, owned by Ecclestone's family trust - but Francois Hollande's presidential victory in France has put a halt on discussions for now, with the new man in office having bigger fish to fry at the moment.


An intriguing visit

In light of recent speculation Dieter Zetsche's presence in Barcelona was intriguing. The chairman of Daimler, Mercedes-Benz's parent company, visited the paddock amidst reports that Mercedes has put together some form of exit strategy for Formula One. The German manufacturer's unhappiness stems from the suggestion it has been rather cut out of the loop in negotiations over Formula One's commercial future, with rival teams McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing apparently in line for places on Formula One's board should the widely-expected Singapore flotation go through in the coming months.

Few, in reality, expect Mercedes to withdraw from a project they have invested so much in just when the team becomes a force, but even fewer expect an Ecclestone compromise on the new Concorde Agreement.


Final score

Caterham team owner Tony Fernandes was not in Spain, his attentions firmly on one of his other sports properties. And it turned into a good day for the Malaysian entrepreneur as Queen's Park Rangers avoided relegation from the Premier League despite a dramatic 3-2 defeat to new champions Manchester City.

At the final whistle Fernandes found himself hugging the City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak - a man who was the original frontman for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix during his previous role as chief executive of Mubadala Development Company. 

Meanwhile, Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay was a visitor to the Barcelona paddock. Sauber, with whom Chelsea have recently partnered, finished fifth in the Grand Prix after a fine drive from Kamui Kobayashi.


Viva Venezuela

Maldonado's win also completed a good few days for his country

Pastor Maldonado - as unlikely a Grand Prix winner as there has been for a while; he was 300-1 with some bookmakers before qualifying - drove with a newfound composure to win the Spanish Grand Prix, becoming the first Venezuelan Formula One winner in the process. The 27-year old, backed to the tune of US$40 million-plus annually by Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA, had been dismissed as a 'pay driver' by many in Formula One. He has silenced those critics, although there is no doubt the funding he brings has been fundamental to the Williams team in the last two seasons.

Maldonado's win also completed a good few days for his country. Venezuela picked up a handy chunk of positive exposure when Miguel Rubiano, a Colombian rider on the Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela professional cycling team, soloed to victory on Friday's stage six of the second biggest grand tour in the world. Venezuela have backed the  Italian team since the turn of the year.

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