FEBRUARY 6, 2007

There is more to this than meets the eye

The news that Giedo Van der Garde is switching his allegiance from Super Aguri F1 to Spyker makes very little sense on the face of it - but there is obviously rather more to it all behind the scenes.

Sources in Formula 3 circles say that the deal is all down to the fact that Van der Garde's girlfriend is the daughter of a very wealthy Dutch entrepreneur called Marcel Boekhoorn, who has made a fortune by buying struggling companies, restructuring them and then selling them on. The most successful of these investments was in the Dutch mobile phone company Telfort - a Van der Garde sponsor. This was originally owned by British Telecom but was sold off in 2003 to an investment company called Greenfield Capital Partners for just $25m. Some time after that Boekhoorn bought 52% of the business for $250m, giving Greenfield a substantial profit. In the middle of 2005 Boekhoorn sold Telfort to the Dutch telecommunications giant KPN for $1.3bn, resulting in a substantial profit for Boekhoorn (and presumably still more money for Greenfield).

It is worth noting at this point that in 2005 Greenfield was mentioned as being one of the investors behind Michiel Mol in a bid to buy Minardi and it is significant that when Spyker acquired the MF1 team last year Greenfield chairman Fred Mulder was quickly named to the Spyker board, suggesting that he was indeed one of Mol's backers. It is also probably worth noting that Boekhoorn joined Spyker boss Victor Muller in investing in a gadget company called Wannahaves.

Add to this information rumours in recent weeks about Boekhoorn buying a share of Super Aguri F1 and it seems fairly clear that the sudden decision for Van der Garde to turn his back on a Super Aguri test drive to join Spyker may have more to do with a deal between Boekhoorn and Spyker than Van der Garde's talent.

The ownership of Spyker is believed to be 32% Jan Mol (father of Michiel Mol), 15% the Bahrain-controlled Merchantbridge investment company; 17% Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi firm that owns a share of Ferrari with the remaining 36% split between Muller and other investors, presumably including Christijan Albers's father-in-law Roel Kooijman, Mulder and Boekhoorn.

All this is good news for Van der Garde but perhaps rather unsettling information for Adrian Sutil.

And Super Aguri is probably only making a big deal about the Van der Garde contract because it would like some money to go away and figures that Boekhoorn has plenty available.