OCTOBER 12, 2004

Buying and selling teams

Paul Stoddart made the point quite well in Suzuka. There are a lot of peple who talk about buying Formula 1 teams but there are not many who are really serious when they fnd out the figures.

"I think I hold the record for the number of due diligences done," said the Minardi boss. "I am up to 23, including a 10 million Euro bounced cheque that sits on my office wall from one of the fly-by-nighters that didn't have the money to go through with it."

At the moment it seems that the demise of Jaguar Racing has opened the gates to a whole new wave of possible buyers with the latest rumour being that Korean car manufacturer Hyundai is assessing the benefits of buying the Jaguar operation. Over the weekend we learned that investment company Oakwell is serious about a bid for Jaguar and Red Bull is still talked about as the most likely buyer of the team.

In addition we have the announcement from Russian group Midland which makes no sense at all as a new operation but would be a logical buyer for Jaguar Racing and Cosworth. We have also heard stories of a Chinese government-backed initiative and there is no doubt that other big players such as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich have had a close look at the business, Abramovich taking a good look at Jordan and trying to work a deal to get Smart-badged Mercedes Benz engines.

The Hyundai rumour is interesting because the Korean company has had an interest in F1 for some years. The company is growing all the time and has been involved in the WRC since doing a deal in 1998 with Motor Sports Developments Ltd. That deal has now fallen apart and Hyundai has withdrawn to rethink its strategy in F1. The company may return to rallying but it has been linked with F1 several times in recent years, notably when ambitious engine company Asiatech was looking for a buyer. That deal did not happen but there is no doubt that the company harbours serious ambitions to mount its own assault in Grand Prix racing in the future and is rumoured to have had an F1 prototype engine on test beds in Korea and was also involved in plans for a Korean Grand Prix.