Mike Stevens | Dec 22, 2009

MERCEDES GRAND PRIX has secured the first major sponsor for its Formula 1 return next season, signing a long-term agreement with Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas.

The arrangement will see Petronas become naming rights sponsor in a deal set to extend beyond the race track and into Mercedes showrooms around the world.

Petronas’ switch to Mercedes is a major blow to Sauber and Malaysian F1 team Lotus, which were reportedly seeking sponsorship from the company.

Lotus in particular appeared favourite to ink a deal as a result of Petronas’ close links to the Malaysian government, but instead opted to align itself with Mercedes, widely regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious automotive brands.

Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug said his company’s strategic alliance with Petronas will assist the marque’s growth into the Asian region.

“We are very pleased to begin our long-term partnership with our new title partner Petronas. Daimler, our premium brand Mercedes-Benz and Petronas will work together both on and off the track and I am sure that everybody involved will guarantee their absolute dedication to success,” he said.

“Petronas’ home base in Kuala Lumpur is located in the middle of a fast-growing region for the automotive industry which makes this new partnership even more valuable.

“Within the limits of the new Formula One resource restrictions, the Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team will be well positioned to achieve our goals.”

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Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn celebrated the deal as an important step forward for the team as it attempts to go back to back in the Driver’s and Constructors’ championships.

“Everyone at Mercedes GP is delighted to confirm our long-term agreement with Petronas and we look forward to working closely with our new partner in the future,” he said.

“The collaboration of the premium automotive brand Mercedes-Benz and a company as prestigious as Petronas gives our team a fantastic base from which to achieve our ambitions of competing at the top level of Formula One and building on the success of 2009

“Our plans for the new season are progressing well, as is the development of our 2010 challenger, and we look forward to seeing the car run in the new Silver Arrows and Petronas livery at the Valencia test in February.”

The Petronas deal is a massive boost for Mercedes GP after its planned sponsorship arrangement with Henkel collapsed last week.

Henkel alleges that the €90 ($AUD146) million, three-year agreement, was negotiated by an ex-employee with no authorisation to do so, prompting the parties to enter legal proceedings to solve the dispute.

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