The giant oil company BP is to return to Formula 1 in 2017, and I now hear that the deal is definitely going to be with McLaren. Logically, we will see BP branding on the car and perhaps also some Castrol as well, as BP owns Castrol and a deal would normally include both fuel and lubricants. While the deal may be about branding and money, it is also about technology because fuel can make a big difference with the current F1 engine regulations. The key is energy
density because the teams want as little volume of fuel as possible, but the maximum amount of energy to be used to power the cars. Petronas have enjoyed much success with Mercedes in recent seasons with its Primax fuel which has a very high energy density. The deal may have been helped along by Honda’s lengthy relationship with Castrol, which dates back to motorcycle racing in 1959. In recent years Castrol has been the title sponsor of the Honda World Touring Car Team.
BP has had a long and very successful in motor sport but has not been present in
Formula 1 since 1994. It is believed that this is mainly because of a 10-year deal that BP had with BMW. However, this was not used during the BMW Sauber era because the team had a long-standing agreement at that point with Petronas. That deal ended at the start of last year and it is interesting to see that BMW has done a new unique global supplier deal with Shell, which explains why there was a Shell-sponsored BMW in the DTM. Shell has a special relationship with Ferrari in F1, but that deal is relatively small when one considers that production levels at Ferrari in comparison to other OEMs. Shell is linked to Ford in NASCAR and to Hyundai in the World Rally Championship. It is also the official supplier of fuel to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest for the World Endurance Championship.
BP is keen to drive more consumer sales, which have flagged in recent years in comparison to other companies. In part this is due to the reputational damage done to BP by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. That has cost the company billions in settlements and now BP wants to boost its image of having
advanced technology and proven expertise. It is still keen to push the idea of environmental responsibility but this can be achieved by getting involved in the sport and pushing more efficient engines, rather than staying away from motorsport, as was previously the case.