McLaren start F1 season with no title sponsor

It will be a little strange to see the McLaren’s take the grid in Australia next week without “Vodafone” on the sidepod. It will be even stranger to see nothing on their sidepod—no sponsor name at all.

The lack of a title sponsor for a team like McLaren has some undertow or message to it and according to Ron Dennis, it may be the team’s lack of performance last year that has soiled the price tag:

“Inevitably when you have a run of poor results, people try and push the rate card down,” he said of the sponsorship negotiations,” said Dennis.

“I won’t accept that. I know what this company is and what it’s grand prix team can achieve. And that requires the correct recognition when it comes to the commercial relationship with a principal sponsor.

“We are negotiating with several partners at the moment and I think it will happen sooner rather than later.”

There must be something going on at the negotiating table because a team like Williams Martini Racing just secured the Italian spirits maker and they had an even worse season than McLaren in 2013.

It would seem that the economic weight of the global financial situation is creating the challenges of big-ticket sponsorship deals for F1 teams. There are other nuances in the McLaren equation as well. One of those is the looming partnership with Honda in 2016.

Finding a title sponsor that is a harmonious party to the McLaren and Honda brand will be important. Dennis said the team avoided trying to din stopgap sponsors for a year and are looking for long-term relationships.

The team will field both cars with no title sponsor but Dennis believe one will appear over the next few races. In the end, it doesn’t really matter much as the F1 team isn’t responsible for making a profit. Dennis said:

“The Formula One team has no responsibilities for income,” he said. “So the new model for our Formula One team is that its completely populated by people who have no other objective but winning in Formula One.

“Effectively the mindset of the Formula One team is they provide to the marketing company a car devoid of branding. They have no responsibility for income…it’s a much more focused model,”

Well that’s good because it doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon given the massive costs of the new 2014 regulations and a lack of a main sponsor.

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