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Teams woo big new sponsors

THE Formula 1 teams are busy trying to put together their commercial packages for next season - and the Montreal paddock was a hive of activity as F1 marketing departments tried to convince potential sponsors to sign up with them. Most of the F1 teams have bid for British American Tobacco money but there are a variety of other big companies which were represented in Montreal.

We hear that Benetton is close to a deal with the booming international courier service Federal Express, which wants to use F1 racing to promote its services around the world using speed as the common link. The Fortune 500 company has been expanding rapidly in recent years.

Stewart Grand Prix has been talking to the recently-merged MCI-British Telecom telecommunications empire about a possible deal. The merger was cleared by European Union legislators less than a month ago but in Montreal the company's sponsorship manager Byron Payton was spotted kitted out in Stewart team gear. MCI is already involved in motorsport via a major sponsorship in CART racing with the Arciero Wells Reynard-Toyota team and driver Max Papis.

Another man who is tipped to have a budget for F1 is Canadian Lawrence Stroll, who owns the Tommy Hilfiger clothing company. Stroll was involved in the latter days of Team Lotus and is a great motor racing fan, racing himself last week in the North American Ferrari Challenge race in Montreal. Tommy Hilfiger clothing is booming in North America and Stroll is looking to expand more around the world.

We hear that there may be a deal being discussed between Stroll and Ferrari.

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