Martini is Leaving Formula 1 After 2018
Williams will lose its title sponsor but is neither shaken nor stirred over the decision.
Martini will end its relationship with Williams at the end of the 2018 Formula 1 season, having opted not to extend its expiring title sponsorship deal with the Grove-based squad.
Motorsport.com broke the news, with deputy team principal Claire Williams confirming to that publication that the Bacardi Group—to which Martini belongs—has decided not to continue in Formula 1 after 2018. "The Bacardi Group have told us that they will step away entirely from Formula 1 when our current contract expires at the end of this year", said Williams. Speaking to Reuters, she added: "We are financially stable at the moment ... and we are not unduly concerned by them [Martini] leaving."
Martini has been Williams' title sponsor since 2014, resulting in Williams running the evocative white with a blue and red stripe livery that has such motorsport pedigree. At the time of the deal being announced in 2014, paddock rumor suggested Martini paid a relatively moderate rate for the title sponsorship. The deal followed a tough 2013 for Williams in which it only managed to score five points and finished ninth in the Constructors' Championship.
With its newly Martini-liveried FW36 machines and a well-timed switch from Renault to Mercedes engines, Williams went through a resurgence in 2014, however, and finished the season third in the overall standings. The team equaled that in 2015, but dropped to fifth in 2016 and repeated the same result last year. The team has seen a diminishing return in terms of points since 2015, but hopes to bounce back in 2018 with the FW41.
The new Williams will be raced by Canadian Lance Stroll and Russian Sergey Sirotkin. Williams found itself at the center of attention for much of the offseason as it weighed up who should partner Stroll in 2018. It eventually picked Sirotkin over the popular pole Robert Kubica, who is attempting a comeback following grave injuries sustained in a 2011 rally crash. Kubica is, however, still part of the team as a reserve and development driver and joins Stroll and Sirotkin in testing this week.
What might soften the blow for Martini's looming departure is the fact both Stroll and Sirotkin come with significant backing. Stroll's efforts are effectively bankrolled by his father, billionaire fashion mogul Lawrence Stroll. Sirotkin is supported by the wide-ranging SMP Racing program, a pet project of Russian billionaire Boris Rotenberg. Williams has further secured backing from data storage company Acronis over the winter, although it no longer has Avanade and Randstad listed as partners.