Petrobras told to terminate sponsorship of McLaren

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL34. 03.04.2019. Formula One Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Wednesday.
© XPB 

Brazilian petroleum corporation Petrobras has been told to pull out of its current deal to sponsor the McLaren Formula 1 team.

And the order has come from no less an authority that the new president of the country, Jair Bolsonaro.

The national government holds almost two thirds of the shares of Petrobras, meaning that such an instruction constitutes far more than the usual political rhetoric - but has real power to be enforced.

“In 2018 Petrobras signed an advertising contract of R$782m with McLaren, valid for five years,” Bolsonaro tweeted this week. That sum in the Brazilian Real currency is equivalent to around £150 million.

“At the moment, the company, by decision of my government, seeks a way to terminate the contract," the president revealed.

The right wing politician has been instigating major political and economic change across the country since coming into the office at the start of 2019.

In motorsport, he's already ceased public support for the Seletiva de Kart, which has received financial backing from the government for the last two decades.

And last week Bolsonaro said that the Brazilian Grand Prix would continue to be held only if it switched from Interlagos in Sao Paulo to a new facility in Rio de Janeiro, where he himself resides.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro


Losing Petrobras's sponsorship would be a huge financial blow for McLaren, which is only now getting back on its feet after several years in the F1 wilderness.

But it's not clear whether Petrobras could actually pull out of the arrangement without incurring major penalty clauses in the process - possibly as big as the company's existing sponsorship commitments.

However McLaren is also increasingly reliant on Petrobras to supply key petrol and lubrication technologies to the F1 race team.

The team has been using Petrobras' transmission lubricant since the start of the current season, with more expected to follow over the course of the five-year deal.

Understandably in the circumstances, McLaren were unwilling to comment on the president's social media announcement.

“Such matters are commercially confidential and therefore we are not able to comment further," a spokesperson for the team said this week.

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