Saturday, September 26, 2009

Alex Yoong to join 1Malaysia F1 team

SINGAPORE: Former F1 driver Alex Yoong will be joining the 1Malaysia F1 team, most likely as team principal Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes’ number two.

“You could say Alex could hopefully be my deputy principal but we have yet to decide on that,” said Fernandes at a press conference at the Singapore F1 circuit on Saturday.

“The idea is there. He could come and help take care of F1 when I have to attend to Air Asia and Tune Group matters,” he said.

Fernandes also said that F1 had approached Petronas to sponsor the Lotus F1 team.

“Yes, we have spoken to them. We will also approach Malaysian Airlines, Genting Bhd and other organisations.

“We are one of the three to four parties they are looking at.

“It would be good if they can sponsor us as they do not have a team for the next season,” Fernandes said.

Petronas sponsorship with BMW Sauber will expire this season.

Fernandes also said that the F1 team car would be ready in Feb for testing in Sepang circuit.

Meanwhile, 1Malaysia F1 Sdn Bhd aims to employ 225 people over a period of time and the advertisements have come out this week in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

The Government will hold no equity in the 1Malaysia F1 Team project, either directly or indirectly, through any of the government-linked companies.

Private investors will put in RM110mil to RM165mil a year, while sponsorship was expected to contribute a significant sum, according to Fernandes.

As for sponsorship in the current economic climate, it could come from Asia in the future, although Europe has been the traditional source of sponsorship, Fernandes told Singapore's Business Times on Friday, on the sidelines of the Singapore Grand Prix.

The team will have a start-up capital of RM168mil while its baseline annual budget is estimated at RM308mil, according to a statement it released on Friday.

The 1Malaysian F1 Team is a collaboration between the Government and three entrepreneurs - Fernandes, who is AirAsia Group CEO, AirAsia deputy CEO Kamarudin Meranun and Naza Group CEO SM Nasaruddin SM Nasimuddin.

The privately-funded project is jointly-owned by the Tune Group, Naza and Litespeed UK. Tune Group is jointly-owned by Fernandes and Kamarudin.

Proton Holdings' British subsidiary, Lotus, is the team's constructor.

In a statement, the team said Proton Holdings Bhd would license its Lotus brand to the 1Malaysia F1 Team (1MF1T).

The partnership license will include a variety of benefits for both Lotus and Proton involving technology transfer, marketing rights and employment opportunities, both within the national F1 Team, at the team's technical centre in Sepang and its satellite base in Norfolk, United Kingdom, it said.

1MF1T is a privately-funded project and jointly owned by Tune Group, Naza Group and Litespeed UK.

Tune Group is jointly-owned by 1MF1T Team Principal Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes and 1MF1T Director Datuk Kamarudin Meranun.

Other Directors of 1MF1T are SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin, the Chief Executive Officer of Naza Group and Zahri Ismail of 1Malaysia F1 Sdn Bhd.

The government holds no equity in the project, either directly or indirectly, through any of the government-linked companies.

The team will collaborate with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS to help realise the aspiration of creating a growing class of high-technology and knowledge-intensive human capital for the country.

Composites Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM), a leading composites manufacturing expert, will also be part of the project, the team said.

Plans are in the advanced stage to develop the 1Malaysia F1 Team technical, research and development and manufacturing centre on a eight hectare site at the Sepang International Circuit.

Fernandes described the team as a lifetime achievement for all Malaysians.

"Other countries have been bidding hard for this spot but Malaysia, through our concerted effort and strength in the true spirit of 1Malaysia, managed to pull it through.

"This will be an excellent opportunity for Malaysian corporates to share this dream that has finally come through," he said.

Fernandes said the project would help Malaysia move up the value chain by emphasising innovation and technology.

"Having been involved in Formula One, we are very excited at Malaysia owning a Formula One team and the amazing benefits it will bring the country," he added.

Fernandes also said the team was delighted to be partnering Proton in a way that allowed both to focus on its core businesses yet share the benefits of the collaboration in a mutually beneficial manner.

"I am equally pleased too that we are able to announce that every day we are deepening our relationships with CTRM and SIC, with UTM and UTP.

It's an immense privilege to be working with institutions that have embraced the spirit of the Prime Minister's 1Malaysia vision," he said.

In short, Fernandes said the programme was specifically designed to strengthen Malaysia's industrial base, inspire students to focus on a wide variety of skills, boost the country's image as a tourist destination and provide a competitive advantage for the nation on the world stage.

Proton's Managing Director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said the company as very excited and supportive of the Malaysian initiative.

"Through the impending licencing arrangement between Lotus and the team, the brand association will be beneficial to both Lotus and Proton would definitely heighten global brand awareness," he said.

Similarly, Syed Zainal said the Proton Group also hopes to capitalise on this opportunity from a technical and engineering aspect.

"The exposure to be obtained from Formula 1 racing is invaluable, especially when Lotus is a renowned sports car manufacturer and a respectable engineering firm," he said.

The team will rapidly integrate a Malaysian technical and pit crew totalling some 200 people managed by one of Formula One's most respected and accomplished Technical Director, Mike Gascoyne.

The team has already recruited a core team of international experts with proven track records in the many and various engineering, design and manufacturing disciplines.

This is to ensure the 1Malaysia F1 team is of international standard, readiness and capable of competing with the world's greatest racing marquees on the world's most prestigious racing stage.

The 1Malaysia F1 Team project takes its name from the "1Malaysia - People First, Performance Now" policy mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak earlier this year.

*Taken from The Star Online.

*For Alex Yoong's biodata who is the first Malaysian F1 racer, click here.

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