The Putin - Formula One Connection

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/09/2011 12:00:00 AM
Just a few posts ago, I discussed how Lider Maximo Hugo Chavez was backing the F1 career of Williams backmarker (read: habitual low-place finisher) Pastor Maldonaldo. Watching the F1 race in Istanbul on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I caught sight of another state-sponsored ride. So here's some crass commercialism care of the man who said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

As it turns out, the Soviet-era marque of Lada has been a proud sponsor of Renault F1 (or more latterly Lotus Renault GP) since 2010. Its sponsor's description is rather sinister and reminds me of, yes, Soviet-era propaganda with its odd fixation on the "military-industrial complex" (their Ike-worship, not mine):
In accordance with Federal Law No. 270-FZ “On the State Corporation “Russian Technologies” dated November 23, 2007, the main tasks of the Corporation are:
- assistance to organizations of different industrial sectors, including the military-industrial complex, in development and manufacture of high-tech industrial products;
- assistance in promotion and sales in domestic and foreign markets of high-tech industrial products and related intellectual activity results;
- participation in implementation of state policy in the areas of military-technical - cooperation of Russian Federation with foreign states and of the state program of armaments production and supply;
- attraction of investments into different sectors of industry including the military-industrial complex, for the purpose of development of competitive high-tech industrial products, including military products;
Creepy...what the heck does all that have to do with selling passenger cars? Just as Arsenal striker Andrei Arshavin is a noted proponent of PM Vladimir Putin's United Front in the English Premier League, so it appears that the erstwhile Russian leader is busy using F1 literally as a vehicle for increasingly the visibility of Russian-owned businesses. You see, Lada is now 25% state-owned, hence the sponsorship deal. From ESPN:
Probably the manufacturer least likely to be associated with Formula One, Russian car maker Lada has announced it will be sponsoring the Renault F1 team for 2010. The announcement, made by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, is linked to the signing of Vitaly Petrov as the country's first F1 driver. Putin said Renault's signing of Petrov is a "great symbol of cooperation" between the French marque and Russia.

"We will sponsor this activity [the F1 team] as a first step, and do not rule out later increasing our financial participation in the project," the prime minister told news agency EFE.

In 2008, Renault bought a 25% stake in Lada's parent company Avtovaz for US$1 billion, and it is reported that Renault's chief executive Carlos Ghosn may now look to increase its involvement. Although the car will carry Lada branding for 2010, there are no plans to change the team name.
Thank heavens the outfit became "Lotus Renault GP" instead of "Lada Renault F1" [!] What does a marque associated with producing crappy cars during the Soviet era have to do with a sport renowned for exhibiting engineering excellence? Beats me, pal. You learn something weird and new every time you watch the wacky world of F1, where geopolitics and sport mix to usually weird effect.

The somewhat creepy thing is that this team unlike present-day Williams gets a lot more camera time and hence exposure, with Petrov and teammate Nick Heidfeld having already finished on the podium this season.