Following on from the news that ING is to leave Formula One at the end of the forthcoming season and that the Royal Bank of Scotland is being pressed to drop its sporting ambassadors, former grand prix star Marc Surer has predicted that, in the not-too-distant future, all banks will disappear from the starting grid.

ING is understood to have contributed some $86 million into the sport per year since its entry back in 2007, $65 million of which went the way of Renault - constituting more than half of the French outfit's total sponsorship kitty - with the remainder accounted for by title sponsorship of the Australian and Belgian Grands Prix and additional trackside advertising at 14 of the 18 races.

The Dutch organisation's departure [see separate story - click here] followed that of Credit Suisse, which last month called time on its seven-year association with BMW-Sauber, and there is now speculation that key Williams backer RBS could well be next out of the door, despite having two years still left to run on its deal with the multiple championship-winning, Grove-based concern.

MP John Mann has criticised the spending of the bank - which recently announced the biggest loss in British corporate history, and is now almost 70 per cent owned and funded by UK taxpayers - as 'reckless', and its reputed $300 million employment of sporting stars such as Sir Jackie Stewart to entertain its clients at events as 'a good illustration of excessive behaviour in anything to do with money' [see separate story - click here].

Swiss racer-turned-expert commentator Surer seems to agree that in the current economic climate, banks and F1 no longer seem to be the easiest of bedfellows.

"As the causes of the [financial] crisis, they simply no longer fit with F1's image," the 57-year old told German news agency SID.

"The party is over. All banks will disappear but, just as F1 survived the end of tobacco sponsoring, once again there will be something new."

'As do many businesses, banks see sports sponsorships as vital to raising brand visibility,' muses, 'but in these times of government - read, taxpayer - bail-outs, money spent on sports is seen as an unnecessary luxury, as misplaced as inflated bonuses for executives who have driven their companies into the ground. A global financial crisis affecting sports across the board doesn't stand to be finished with F1 yet. Bank on it.'



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