The man charged with bringing Santander into F1 seven years ago has died of as heart attack at the age of 79.

Emilio Botin, who helped transform Santander from modest roots into one of the biggest banks in the world, was a big advocate of using F1 as a means of promoting the brand, initially joining McLaren in 2007 before transferring his allegiance to Ferrari three years later.

Botin's biggest success came in helping Santander avoid the worst of the Euro zone debt crisis, which he achieved by reducing the company's reliance on its homeland via expansion and acquisition in both Latin America and the UK

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His successor is expected to be named within the next 24-48 hours, with daughter Ana currently the favourite to take over. What effect that has on Santander's involvement in F1 remains to be seen, although its agreements with Ferrari and McLaren extend beyond the end of the current season, the former through to 2017.

Each F1 deal was struck on the back of Fernando Alonso racing with the respective powerhouses, and the Spaniard was among the first to pay his respects to Botin.

McLaren CEO Ron Dennis also paid tribute to a man he regarded as much a friend as a business associate.

"Everyone at McLaren is shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Emilio Botin, the Chairman of the Euro zone's largest bank, Santander, a McLaren partner since 2007," Dennis said.

"Emilio was a consummate businessman, who made Santander what it is today: one of the world's leading financial institutions, employing 200,000 people around the globe. Passionate and charming, he was firm but always fair. I feel privileged to have known him, and proud to be able to call him a friend.

"He adored motor racing - there was no-one more enthusiastic in the McLaren garage than he was when a race win was in the offing.

"The world has lost a great man. "To his large and loving family, I send my condolences."

Lewis Hamilton, who partnered Alonso under Dennis' leadership ay McLaren in 2007, also took to Twitter to remember Botin.

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The question is will Santander continue to support F1 / Ferrari at the same level with Botin gone?
It is often the case in big companies that one individual champions this sort of support and those that replace may not have the same commitment.