DECEMBER 22, 1997

Stewart's new sponsors

AS we suggested in February (INSIDE F1, Issue 9707), Jackie Stewart has concluded a large sponsorship deal with the telecommunications companyƊMCI. The deal was being discussed last year but the failed alliance between MCI and British Telecom followed by the $37 billion takeover of MCI by WorldCom in November delayed the deal. The MCI contract is believed to be for three years.

The team also announced a sponsorship deal with the Lear Corporation which supplies automotive interiors to many of the world's car companies. As with many of Stewart's sponsors the influence of Ford is clear in the deal, although the company dressed up its involvement in F1 as being "a logical extension of the research and development in search of safety in the auto industry".

Stewart has a third sponsorship deal signed but is waiting to announce that when the new Stewart-Ford SF2 is launched in January.

While announcing that MCI and Lear are "the new face of F1" sponsoring, Stewart performed a smart U-turn with regard to tobacco sponsorship in F1. In recent months Jackie has made a big song and dance about his team's ability to survive without tobacco money but at the announcement of MCI and Lear he said that: "I am willing to listen and go with tobacco companies. I am not anti-them, but I had this opportunity to become a non-tobacco sponsored team and I have gone with it."

"I have been approached by tobacco companies recently, but it was difficult because there isn't much spare space on the car and they wanted to take it all over and be dominant as title sponsors."

Stewart's public comments about cigarette money will, no doubt, help Jackie to overcome political problems which he has faced in F1 because of his insistence on being outspoken about tobacco.