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With the 2013 Formula One season just under a month away the world is looking out for signs of what the racing will bring. The first test session at Jerez didn't give too much away and was overshadowed by talk of teams being in financial difficulty. It was fuelled by uncharacteristically-outspoken comments about the teams from McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh who said that "at least half a dozen are likely to be not self-sufficient under the current structure." However, looking at the hustle and bustle in the Barcelona paddock at the start of the second round of testing there didn't appear to be much sign of trouble.
As the picture shows, the paddock was nearly as packed as it is during the Grand Prix weekend which in itself is a big boost to the teams and the management at the Circuit de Catalunya. As F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone stresses, "this is just for a test session." It's not just window dressing.
Yet another global brand announced a tie-up with F1 as parcel delivery service UPS became a Ferrari partner. It follows phone manufacturer Blackberry, which joined Mercedes earlier this month, and new Lotus partner, the Coca-Cola-owned Burn energy drinks brand .
Meanwhile, Ecclestone has managed to secure two new official sponsors for F1 by signing up Rolex as official timekeeper and Emirates, which once had its logos on the McLarens, as another global partner of the sport.
McLaren however has not yet announced any major new sponsorships for 2013 and, according to Autocar magazine, it was understood to be courting a deal with US consumer appliance conglomerate Honeywell. This might make sense as it came to light in July last year that McLaren's title partner Vodafone had carried out an evaluation about whether to stay or pull out. The outcome of its evaluation has not been made public but we will find out soon enough since McLaren's deal with Vodafone expires at the end of this year.
Regardless of what Vodafone decides to do, McLaren isn't likely to suffer financially. As Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt pointed out yesterday, McLaren gets special privileges under its commercial agreement with Ecclestone which runs from this year to the end of 2020.
McLaren is one of what are known as Constructors' Championship Bonus (CCB) teams which are the top three based primarily on races won in the four seasons prior to 2012. Amongst other benefits, it means that McLaren will share in a dedicated prize fund comprising the greater of 7.5% of F1's profits and £64.5m ($100m). This is in addition to the basic prize money entitlement of 47% of F1's profits which is shared between the top ten teams. It gave the teams a total of £450.9m ($698.5m) in prize money in 2011 but as Sylt's article yesterday pointed out, this is expected to rise by over £96.8m ($150m) this year.
Ecclestone recently joked that the teams "have all got more money than God" and although he said it with his tongue firmly in his cheek, he added that none is at risk of pulling out. "They are all safe," he said. If that proves to be the case then it would seem that the current structure isn't so bad after all.
Picture Credit: Lil Olman
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