FEBRUARY 8, 2008
Russians in F1 - rumours and speculations
There are reports that the unknown bidder for the Super Aguri F1 team is from Russia. We do not believe that this is the case but we hear that some of the money behind the bid may come from Russian sources, probably in the form of sponsorship.
One can speculate who this might be and perhaps it is worth remembering that a couple of years ago Russian liquor baron Rustam Tariko was showing keen interest in buying an F1 team. At the time his bid was being fronted by former F1 driver Eddie Irvine, himself a very rich man, who has got richer in recent years by trading in shares and real estate.
Tariko is the founder and owner of Russian Standard, which sells vodka but is also a consumer bank and insurance business. Money is not really a problem as Tariko is estimated to have a fortune worth around $5.4bn. Unlike many of the other Russian super-rich, Tariko built the company from scratch rather than by acquiring a former government entity. Standard is Russia's number one selling premium vodka brand with around 60% of the market share. The company recently paid $3m for the web domain www.vodka.com.
A link with Russia is something that the Formula One is believed to be keen to see as the market remains open for F1. There has long been talk of a race in Russia and GP2 driver Vitaly Petrov is on the verge of F1, having won his victory in GP2 last year with Campos Grand Prix. It is also perhaps worth noting that the GP2 team is owned by Alejandro Agag, who has been mentioned in connection with a Spanish bid for Super Aguri. This is largely guesswork but would seem to tie in a number of players who seem to be interested.
What is clear is that a successful bid is needed soon if the team is to make it in 2008.