Toyota and Exxon Mobil

THERE was a big surprise on Tuesday when Toyota announced that a "basic agreement" has been reached with Exxon Mobil for a technical partnership in Formula 1. Exxon Mobil is currently represented in Grand Prix racing by McLaren, the deal having been in place since the start of 1995, with Mobil enjoying an original equipment supply arrangement with Mercedes-Benz. It is possible that McLaren may have done a deal with another oil company and that the Mobil announcement will preempt an announcement at the launch of the new McLaren tomorrow. If this is the case, the obvious backer for McLaren would be British Petroleum as all the other major oil companies are tied up with other teams.

There have been whispers in recent months that Mobil was not planning to increase its sponsorship and McLaren is undoubtedly looking for a better deal as the team is performing a great deal better than it did when the original Mobil deal was agreed in 1995. As the costs of the F1 program are offset by original supply deals it is possible that McLaren has been able to find a better deal elsewhere and could announce that deal tomorrow in Jerez.

Toyota will no doubt have offered Mobil an incentive with an original supply deal as the deal makes little sense in the short term.

The other possibility is that Toyota will carry Esso branding and that McLaren will continue with Mobil - or vice versa.

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