Major Formula 1 sponsor ING has announced that it is to slash its $100 million annual spending in the sport by 40 per cent as a result of the global credit crunch - but Renault is understood not to be affected...yet.

The troubled Dutch financial services group last year received an injection of some EUR10 billion, but has since revealed its second successive quarterly loss, of EUR3.3 billion. With ING bidding to reduce its expenditure by EUR1 billion this year, international news agency Bloomberg reports that 7,000 jobs will go - as Reuters adds that the bank intends to draw upon EUR22 billion of Dutch state loan guarantees.

The company has been the title sponsor of Renault's F1 outfit since the beginning of 2007, in addition to that of both the Australian and Belgian Grands Prix, with further trackside advertising at 14 of the 18 races in 2008. ING CEO Michel Tilmant was understood to have viewed the sport as a significant marketing tool, but it has also now been announced that the Belgian has stepped down from his post, casting further doubt upon the organisation's continued presence in the top flight.

As part of the severe cost-cutting exercise, an ING spokesman confirmed to the International Herald Tribune that 40 per cent of its Formula 1 sponsorship is to be ditched across the board, with a decision to be made mid-year about whether or not to continue in 2010 and beyond. He also made clear that the reduction would be made in activities that are not included in the company's contracts with either the sport or Renault, such as hospitality and marketing campaigns.

ING is in the last year of its three-year deal with the R?gie - believed to account for roughly half its F1 spending - and spokesman Nanne Bos insisted that it will honour its outstanding agreements in all areas.

"We have always said that we will evaluate the full programme in the third year and then make a decision on how to go forward," the Dutchman told the IHT, "and that's what's happening. Obviously we will take into account the current market circumstances, but no formal decision has been made for the moment."



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