Renault was yesterday hit by the fallout of its Formula One team’s “Crashgate” scandal after two of its sponsors announced they were terminating their contracts with immediate effect.
ING, the Dutch bank and Renault Formula One’s title sponsor, said it was “deeply disappointed” at the sequence of events that resulted in the team’s two-year suspended ban for ordering one of its drivers to crash deliberately in last year’s Singapore grand prix. The bank had announced in February that it would not be renewing its three-year sponsorship of the team after the end of this season, but has now decided to part company with Renault with four races of the season remaining. CNN Exclusive: Look inside Force India’s team workshop. Renault yesterday also lost the backing of Mutua Madrilena, one of Spain’s biggest insurance groups whose main business is auto insurance. Mutua Madrilena has demanded the withdrawal of the company’s name from the team’s cars, although it will continue to sponsor Renault’s Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso.
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In a statement, Mutua Madrilena said it believed the incident was “extremely serious and compromised not only the integrity of sport, but endangered the physical safety of spectators, riders and staff of the circuit, all of which can affect the image, reputation and good name of the sponsors of the team”. On Monday, Renault escaped a heavy fine and possible expulsion from F1 from the Federation International de l’Automobile after the team last week said it would not contest the charges against it. However, Flavio Briatore, who left his position as team principal last week, was given a life ban from the sport. Pat Symonds, its former engineering director, was banned for five years. Mutua Madrilena began partnering Renault in F1 in 2005, the year Renault and Alonso won the first of two consecutive world championships. Mutua Madrilena is also the title sponsor of the Madrid Open tennis tournament. Renault said Mutua Madrilena was “not a major sponsor”, adding that it was not aware of discussions with other sponsors about the implications of the Crashgate scandal. Renault indicated this week that it intended to stay in F1. Renault’s other sponsors are Total, the French multinational energy company, Bridgestone tyres, Pepe Jeans, Universaria, an online education network, and Megafon, the Russian mobile phone operator. The European Sponsorship Association warned this week that cheating allegations in high-profile sports put the funding of sports teams and bodies at risk.