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Sponsorship shortfall to cost d'Ambrosio his Virgin seat?

11 May 2011

F1 2011 rookie Jérôme d'Ambrosio risks losing his seat at Virgin Racing unless his sponsors honour their pledge to support him this season, it has emerged, with his manager Eric Boullier blasting that 'people need to understand that when you make a commitment, you must keep your word' and insisting 'there comes a time when the nonsense must stop'.

According to the Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Nieuwsblad newspapers, d'Ambrosio's sponsors are presently somewhere in the region of €4 to €5 million in arrears, with a potential consequence should they fail to pay up that the Belgian might find himself replaced by reserve driver Robert Wickens, who is sponsored in the World Series by Renault by Virgin's title partner Marussia.

Whilst d'Ambrosio claims he is 'not worrying about it' since 'everybody says I'm doing well', Lotus Renault GP managing director Boullier – who is also CEO of Gravity Sport Management, which manages the 25-year-old GP2 Series graduate – has confirmed that he will travel to Belgium tomorrow (Thursday) for crisis talks.

“This cannot go on any longer,” the Frenchman stressed, revealing that in the interim period, Gravity has had to 'dip into its purse to calm the situation'. “Anything said about Jérôme's so-called sponsors doing what they promised is not true. People need to understand that when you make a commitment, you must keep your word. Everything is stuck.

“I recently spoke with the people at Virgin, and they are starting to get impatient. They have very clearly told me that if there is no change, they will consider replacing Jérôme. Some people make a real science out of making excuses – there are holidays, the banks are closed, you name it – but there comes a time when the nonsense must stop. Jérôme's good performances and our personal relationships come in handy in this situation, but it cannot continue forever on that.”

Boullier has subsequently moderated his remarks, however, revealing that 'I did not want to drop a bomb, I just wanted to press the alarm' and assuring that 'Jérôme's place at Virgin is guaranteed until the end of the season' – comments that are echoed by team principal John Booth.

“Since the beginning of the season, Jérôme has done a fantastic job and if his contract will be respected, there is no reason to replace him,” the Yorkshireman told La Dernière Heure, adding in an interview with BBC Sport: “Jérôme is one to watch for the future. As with any driver agreement with the team, as long as the terms of the contract are fulfilled, it would be our intention to continue with Jérôme.”


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