NOVEMBER 7, 2007
Mexican money for Renault?
Further to the rumours about deals for Renault to get Fernando Alonso in at Renault, it seems that the man who may be involved is Mexican businessman Carlos Slim. The 67-year-old is rumoured to be one of the richest people in the world and has widespread interests in the telecommunications industry in Mexico and Latin America. He controls Telmex and Telcel. In August Forbes magazine reported that Slim is now richer than Bill Gates with a fortune estimated at $59bn, based on the stock market value of his holdings at the time. He controls 90% of the telephone fixed telephone lines in Mexico and 80% of all the country's cellphones. His America Movil controls cellphone companies across Latin America and now has more than 100m subscribers.
In the past Slim has supported only Mexican racers but with an broadening empire in Latin America, getting Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr in the same team might be attractive to him.
It is certainly a lot more likely than a deal with Telefonica, which is headed by Cesar Alierta. He has been in charge of the Spanish telecommunications company since he replaced the flamboyant Juan Villalonga in July 2000. Prior to that he was head of the tobacco company Altadis. He is a man with much experience in the ways of Formula 1. Under his leadership Altadis terminated the Gitanes backing for Prost Grand Prix. When he moved to Telefonica he was the man who stopped the company's burgeoning involvement in motorsports, including a planned Spanish takeover of the Minardi team. One of the results of that was that Alonso did not have the money he had hoped for to develop his career and he took the decision to sign a management contract with Flavio Briatore. The downside was that Fernando would have to give a percentage of his future salary to the Renault F1 team boss, but the deal meant that a deal was done for Fernando to drive for Paul Stoddart, the new owner of the Minardi team.
Telefonica did eventually return to Renault in 2004 but the relationship with the team was not easy as there were arguments over the positioning of logos on the cars and the company departed at the end of 2006 when Fernando Alonso jumped ship and went to join the Vodafone-backed McLaren. From what we hear from Spain, Telefonica did not appreciate this move, just as Alonso did not appreciate the decision in 2000 to pull out of racing.