DECEMBER 2, 1996

More loot for Stewart

JACKIE STEWART has signed a deal with the Malaysian government to promote the country's tourism industry. The deal - which we predicted in September (Week 39) - will see "Visit Malaysia" written on the front and rear wings of the Stewart-Fords.

"This is the first time a nation has sponsored a Formula 1 team to this extent," Stewart said at a news conference in the Malaysian High Commission in London, apparently forgetting that Sauber is currently funded by the Malaysian government's Petronas company and that Eddie Jordan has long had backing from the Irish government. Stewart also seems to have forgotten that France has poured millions into the efforts of Renault, Ligier and Larrousse and that for most of his F1 career Jackie was actually paid for by the French government's fuel company Elf. Other nations which have been directly involved in F1 include Mexico (Pemex) and Saudi Arabia (Saudia Airlines).

The deal is for just one season and Stewart refused to comment on how much money is involved. There have been suggestions that it is worth $15m a year but these seem to be rather exaggerated. What is clear is that it could lead to a much bigger deal in the future if the team does well, just as happened with Sauber's Petronas deal.

Two days after the Stewart announcement Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad launched the latest phase of his Vision 2020 scheme which aims to transform Malaysia into a fully-industrialized nation by 2020. The 10-year plan (to cover 1997-2006) places special emphasis on engineering, particularly in the automotive and high-technology industries. This helps to explain Malaysia's recent interest in F1 and in the purchase of Lotus Engineering. Malaysia intends to stage its own Grand Prix in 1999 and construction of a racing circuit is beginning in January.