APRIL 25, 2007

The future of Christijan Albers

In Holland the talk has already started that Christijan Albers could be replaced at Spyker by Germany's Markus Winkelhock. The rumours have been denied by all concerned but there is no doubt that Albers is not very happy with the current Spyker car and although Adrian Suttil has had three accidents in three races he seems to have settled in well with the team, leaving Albers looking rather weaker than one might have supposed.

Money is still an important element in the choice of drivers at Spyker, a fact that was more or less admitted in the firm's financial returns for 2006. In other words, Spyker is bound to look kindly upon a driver who arrives with as much (or perhaps more) money available than Albers. Particularly if he seems to be young and quick. Albers must improve because although he is well-connected, the need for cash remains.

Albers's father-in-law Roel Kooijman is an important Dutch financier and has probably been involved in finding backers for the F1 team's parent company Spyker Cars. This firm has a voracious appetite for money. There is no evidence to suggest that Kooijman is a shareholder in Spyker but he is certainly close to some of those who are. Two Spyker directors, Michiel Mol and Fred Mulder, both own shares in Christijan Albers BV, the marketing firm that trades - quite successfully - off the Albers name and it is worth noting that Mol is the son of Spyker's biggest shareholder Jan Mol. Thus Albers is in a fairly strong position if he delivers results. He is also Dutch, which is a key point in his favour, although the arrival some months ago of Giedo Van der Garde as the team's test driver - with something like $2.5m in his wallet from his father-in-law, Spyker shareholder Marcel Boekhoorn - is clearly a threat for the future.

Winkelhock has strong links with the Ulm-based oil additive company Liqui-Moly, which supported his father Manfred's F1 career back in the 1980s. Liqui-Moly has changed hands since then and is now run by businessman Ernst Prost (no relation) but the firm has been expanding in recent years and in now available in 90 countries. There are plans for more expansion, notably in Asia, where Liqui-Moly has been the sponsor of Franz Engstler in the Asian Touring Car Championship. The firm recently acquired the Meguin oil manufacturing business in order to increase its capacity.

Thus one can see how a bigger F1 involvement would be good news for Liqui-Moly.