Williams, Benetton lose major sponsors

BENETTON-RENAULT sponsor Marconi and Williams-BMW sponsor Nortel Networks are expected to pull the plug on their Formula One sponsorship programs after the Japanese Grand Prix. The two electronics giants, who spend tens of millions of dollars a year to have their names on a Formula One car, have been hit hard by the recent downturn in the tech sector. Marconi has eliminated 12,000 jobs this year, and Nortel announced that it would lay off 30,000.

British newspaper The Mirror quoted a Nortel spokesman as saying, "It will be our last Grand Prix on Sunday. The sponsorship contract has run its time. It was a three-year thing and it ends at the close of the season."

Marconi is officially "currently reviewing its position in the light of the current situation'', but is expected to end it's relationship with Renault at the end of the 2001 season as well.

The current global recession, made much worse by the terrorist attacks in the US last month, is also making it difficult for teams to secure new sponsorship. BAR team boss, Craig Pollock, revealed, "We have felt the effect. We've had sponsors we have been dealing with actually say that they are not going to come on board now because of it, even if they were small sponsors. I think every team really needs to reflect on what has happened because it is going to affect the whole of Formula One".

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