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Petrobras exit makes room for return of Gulf at McLaren Racing

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Gulf Oil International has signed a multi-year sponsorship with the McLaren Racing Formula One team and luxury supercar company McLaren Automotive.

Industry experts understand the rights fee is worth about $4m (€3.4m) per season, plus supply of oil lubricant products.

This compares to the rights fee of about $10m per season paid to McLaren Racing by Gulf Oil’s predecessor in the category, Brazilian oil company Petrobras, which exited the deal before the season started.

State-funded Petrobras supplied both fuel and oil lubricant to the team in a deal that was heavily criticised by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

In a series of tweets last year, Bolsonaro said the Petrobras sponsorship agreement for the McLaren F1 team was “unjustifiable” and that the government was seeking ways to terminate the contract.

Bolsonaro said the cost of the sponsorship was more than $40m per year, a figure that has been rebuffed by sources close to the team.

To launch the new partnership, which was trailed in the media last week, the Gulf brand will be integrated into the McLaren F1 team from this weekend’s British Grand Prix.

The logo will be represented by McLaren F1 personnel throughout the 2020 F1 season, on race drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz and the McLaren pit crew.

Gulf branding will also appear on the engine covers and wing mirrors of the McLaren MCL35 race cars.

The fuel will be provided by the team’s engine provider Renault and, from 2021, by Mercedes, which agreed to power the car in a four-year deal, signed in September 2019.

Zak Brown, chief executive of McLaren Racing, said he was delighted to reunite the Gulf and McLaren brands, which have links that go back more than 50 years. “Gulf is part of McLaren’s history and are well-known for their innovation and technical excellence in the industry, which aligns with McLaren perfectly,” he said.

Gulf’s association with McLaren started in 1968 and continued until the end of the 1973 season. The partnership was then renewed at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the 1990s, with the McLaren F1 GTR running in Gulf colours throughout the decade.

From 2021, Gulf will also become the preferred lubricant supplier to the McLaren Automotive sports car brand, with all cars to be filled with Gulf Oil and fuel optimised for high-performance engines.

Gulf branding will also be displayed at McLaren Automotive’s customer events that take place around the world, at retailers and on team kit.

In addition, a small and exclusive number of customers will be given the option to have their McLaren supercar hand-painted by McLaren Special Operations, the firm’s bespoke division, in Gulf liveries and colours that echo the F1 GTR Le Mans car that raced in the 1990s.