March 14th (GMM).- McLaren's title sponsor Vodafone has decided to pull out of formula one. This will put an end to a seven-year title sponsorship at the end of 2013.
It emerged mid last year that the lucrative deal could be in doubt beyond 2013, with the Financial Times reporting that the British telecommunications giant was "reviewing" its major sponsorships.
The same newspaper, citing a company spokesman, said Vodafone has indeed decided to end the estimated $75 million per year McLaren deal.
Amid the speculation last year, McLaren decided to replace the Mercedes-bound Lewis Hamilton with Sergio Perez, a Mexican who entered F1 in 2010 with the lucrative backing of the billionaire Carlos Slim-linked Mexican telcom Telmex.
Despite Perez's switch, Telmex still sponsors Sauber, but rumours will surely now intensify about a switch to McLaren to replace Vodafone.
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said last September: "I did have a conversation with Carlos Slim ... but we have made an offer to Sergio, we are paying him well and there are no side deals.
"I'm not saying that ultimately there won't be other fresh partners coming forward because of it (Perez's signing) but that wasn't the motivating force."
"Having met and exceeded all the highly ambitious targets that Vodafone had set for its title partnership with McLaren, the company has now decided to focus on business priorities away from formula one sponsorship," the British team announced in a press release.
In order to hold off speculation, McLaren said that its next title sponsor will be announced in December.
"While the current title partnership is in place ... McLaren will not disclose its new title partnership, but (the team) will make an exciting announcement on 2nd December 2013, following the last grand prix of the season," said the Woking based team.