Russian bank SMP cools on expanding F1 presence

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The Russian bank SMP has said that it has no current plans to expand its role in Formula One in the wake of the sport's takeover by Liberty Media Group.

SMP currently backs the career of Renault F1 development driver and GP2 driver Sergei Sirotkin.

This week the bank's boss Boris Rothenberg confirmed that this support would not be affected by Frederic Vasseur's departure as Renault boss or by US business sanctions against Russian companies with links to President Vladimir Putin.

But Rothenberg poured cold water on speculation that it might up its presence in Formula One through sponsorship deals, as it has done in IndyCar where it backs Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and its Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin. Rothenberg also set-up the SMP Racing endurance racing team which competes in the Le Mans series.

When asked by reporters whether SMP's involvement with Formula One would be limited to suppoorting Sirotkin on a personal level for the foreseeable future, Rochenberg replied succinctly: "At the moment, yes."

Rothenberg held out hopes that the situation might change in the future, telling the Ria Novosti news agency this week that "The programme is moving forwards, but as for it growing, only heaven knows.

"For now we can count only on ourselves to build the programme," explained the Russian billionaire. "If specific objectives are set for us then we can think differently, but in the meantime we can rely only on ourselves."

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