NOVEMBER 7, 2007
What games are these?
The suggestion that the Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) is one of the supporters of the plan to get Fernando Alondo into the Renault F1 team has led to questions about the validity of the rumours.
BBVA is a multinational banking group based in Bilbao, Spain. Renault's title sponsor is ING, a multinational banking group based in Amsterdam. The two banks do not have any obvious alliances and thus it is hard to imagine that they would be seen together on the same F1 car.
Thus the only logical reason for such a name to have leaked into the public domain is if there is a possibility of BBVA replacing ING. This is probably not very likely given that ING is believed to have a longterm contract with Renault F1. However it is always possible in F1 that contracts can be renegotiated to suit the circumstances and the rumours may be some form of bargaining tool to convince ING to come up with more money. If there was a threat that a rival bank was offering more money for the space on the Renaults, it would be an incentive for ING to dig a little deeper to maintain its position.
BBVA is certainly an aggressive player in the markets at the moment and is the smaller of Spain's two large banks: the other being Banco Santander, who was sponsoring Alonso at McLaren. It would be something of a victory for BBVA to get a deal with Alonso after McLaren dropped him. The company scored against Santander in 2006 when it outbid Santander to establish an alliance with China's CITIC Bank by acquiring a stake in the company. BBVA is increasingly focused on overseas expansion, and now operates in 40 countries, so F1 is an obvious place to want to be involved.
We also hear that Telefonica is not such an easy company to please as is being suggested. It has very specific demands about where it wants its branding to appear. The bad news for Renault is that these are places on the car where ING is already in situ. In addition to all of that we hear that the Spanish telephone company is none too keen on some of those involved in Renault F1 and would want there to be changes in the team if any deal was to go ahead.
Obviously big companies like Renault do not like to be bossed around by anyone in such matters and so getting a deal sorted out may not be as easy as it seems from the rumours.