The Martini drinks brand could return as a Formula 1 team sponsor

The drinks giant and long-time motorsport sponsor, Martini, could be making a return to the Formula 1 grid with Williams, according to the latest gossip.

Now owned by the Bacardi empire, the Italian vermouth is one of the world’s most recognised spirit brands with its roots in motorsport going as far back as the late 1960s when its German distributor sponsored a Porsche 906 sports car.

That led to a broader one-and-off involvement with Porsche’s factory sports car team until the 1980s, with the most notable successes coming with the iconic 917 sports car, the 911 Carrera and the 936/77.

Martini's first F1 sponsorship came with the Tecno team in 1972Martini’s motorsport manager – yes, they actually created such a position! – suggested that the brand would get great exposure in Formula 1 with the Brabham team, but against his advice, they joined up with the new (and Italian) Tecno F1 team in 1972 (pictured right).

The team (and the partnership) proved to be a failure, and it eventually heeded the advice, sponsoring Brabham between 1975-77 while continuing its Porsche programme.

After a one-year absence, Martini returned and teamed up with reigning champions Team Lotus, but the 1979 car was truly awful and it proved to be the last time the drinks company had major sponsorship of an F1 team.

Its association with the Porsche sports car team also came to an end at the same time, and so Martini partnered with Lancia’s sports car and World Rally Championship programmes, which saw six titles in the latter with the all-conquering Lancia Delta Integrale.

Martini switched to touring car racing in the early 1990s with Alfa Romeo, and by the end of the decade it had joined forces with Ford, supporting its WRC campaign.

imageIn more recent years, Martini has had significant trackside signage presence at selected Grands Prix.

Reports in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport claim that Williams has secured a multi-million-dollar deal to see Martini’s logos taking significant presence on its 2014 racer, the Mercedes-powered FW36.

The income would be more than welcome following the loss Lotus-bound Pastor Maldonado, who came with a $40 million per year dowry from the Venezuelan government’s PDVSA oil conglomerate.

Williams is yet to confirm the rumours, although the truth will be known when it formally unveils its 2014 racer next week.

Images via Pinterest, The Cahier Archive, VehiclePedia

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Geoff Burke

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