There have been more changes afoot in the Williams F1 camp, with the team’s logo, Facebook page and web address showing the removal of title sponsor AT&T, suggesting that the American company’s five-year title sponsorship of the Grove team has come to an abrupt end.
The company’s name remains in the ‘Partners’ section of the team’s updated website – now at www.williamsf1.com – although it remains to be seen how long that will remain the case, or when official word will come from the team as to the identity of a new title sponsor.
The team’s appalling performance in the 2011 season – its worst in the team’s entire history – has been cited as a key driving factor behind AT&T’s expected split with the outfit, which has gone winless since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix.
But there are also suggestions that AT&T has been most unhappy with the team’s Venezuelan connections, stemming from the $14 million per year in funding it receives from state-owned petroleum giant PDVSA.
The country’s ailing president, Hugo Chaves, has enjoyed a frosty relationship with the United States in recent years, and has gone on the record on numerous occasions lambasting the country’s leaders, and even recently suggesting that the country has invented a way of giving cancer to left-wing political leaders in Latin and South America…
Whenever the announcement of AT&T’s departure may be, it’s widely tipped that Williams will soon announce details of a new title sponsor, which many expect will be QNB, the Qatar National Bank – a not surprising announcement given the team’s increasing involvement in the Middle Eastern state.
The team will be hoping that the extra cash investment, coupled with its raft of changes in its technical line-up – the departures of Sam Michael and Patrick Head, and the hiring of Mike Coughlan (technical director), Jason Somerville (aerodynamics) and Mark Gillan (operations) being the most notable – will deliver it improved performance in 2012. Heaven knows, the team needs to start turning the corner, and quickly…
The final piece of the puzzle remains the identity of its other driver to partner the well-backed (but equally unimpressive) Pastor Maldonado.
There has been plenty of speculation as to whom these candidates might be, with Rubens Barrichello, Adrian Sutil and Bruno Senna appearing to be the frontrunners. There are many various reasons why each – or indeed, another driver – would be a suitable candidate for the seat, but we will undoubtedly have to wait until new of the QNB sponsorship deal to know anything further.
[Original image via GP Now]