Bahrain costs McLaren a sponsor

2013-03-15 10:10

MELBOURNE, Australia -  McLaren has reportedly played down reports that title sponsor Vodafone is pulling out of Formula 1 due to the controversial 2012 Bahrain G.

A day after the British team confirmed that its title sponsor since 2007 was to pull the plug at the end of 2013 Britain's The Times newspaper said Vodafone made its decision "after conducting a review of the deal on the back of the 2012 Bahrain GP".

Bahrain, also a McLaren co-owner through state-owned Mumtalakat holdings, has been a controversial race on the F1 calendar since the country's reaction to the Arab Spring uprising.


Vodafone's chief commercial officer Morten Lundal insisted the decision was made simply because the brand had "less need for this kind of exposure in future".

The Times claims Vodafone "has been reconsidering its involvement with F1" since GP's went ahead "despite a violent uprising in (Bahrain) in which thousands of anti-government protesters confronted police".

The report continued: "Corporate sponsors such as Vodafone pulled their hospitality plans but could do little to press for the removal of their branding from the cars because of the structure of sponsorship deals. Vodafone was particularly sensitive to events during the Arab Spring after it was forced by armed forces to shut down its network in Egypt in January 2011 and send out a text message on behalf of the Mubarak government to 'confront the traitors and criminals'."

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's Telmex company is favourite to replace Vodafone at McLaren in 2014 but The Times said new F1 sponsors Rolex and Emirates were also in the running.

"It's not cut and dried," a team source said.