Russian carmaker LADA is to take on a sponsorship role with the Renault F1 team in one of the more unlikely deals in the sport.
LADA, the target of jokes for a number of years over the quality of its cars, is part owned by Renault and has taken steps into international motorsport in recent years, with a factory team of three cars running in the World Touring Car Championship last season.
With Vitaly Petrov set to make his F1 debut with Renault this season, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has now revealed that LADA branding will feature on the Renault cars this season with the possibility that the sponsorship role could be increased in a future.
“Mr Petrov is here, and I wish him success,” Putin said in a transcript of a meeting with Renault president Carlos Ghosn, published on the website of the Russian Government. “ I am sure he will set a fine example of what co-operation between Renault and Russian car manufacturers can achieve.
“As far as I know, the LADA logo will be on the race car and the uniforms of the driver and pit crew. This is appropriate, seeing as we intend to launch a new series of cars together with Renault's direct participation under the traditional LADA brand.
“We will take the first steps in sponsoring the project, and it's possible that we will increase our sponsorship role in the future.”
Ghosn meanwhile admitted that Petrov's nationality had helped him to secure his drive with Renault for the season ahead, although he added that the team wouldn't have signed the GP2 graduate if it had 'any doubts' about his talent.
“He has talent,” he said. “He is a great driver. We would never sign a driver we had doubts about. He is a rising star.
“We made our choice from a pool of several candidates. Mr Petrov's nationality played a role because of our close partnership with Russia. We hope Mr Petrov will win a lot of races for us. Again, his nationality was one of the factors we considered.
“LADA, together with Renault and Nissan, has wonderful prospects. LADA is our main brand in Russia. It is the most popular brand and we will continue to improve it with the support of Nissan and Renault. These three brands account for 35 per cent of the global auto market. In Russia, Lada accounts for one third of the market. We hope that by promoting LADA with the support of Nissan and Renault, we will be able to increase this share.
“Now we have a great symbol for our partnership in Mr Petrov. He is the first Russian F1 driver on the Renault team.”