Williams lands Nortel backing

WILLIAMS GRAND PRIX ENGINEERING - which has now decided to build up a new brand image as "Williams F1" - has just announced sponsorship deals with Nortel Networks and Brother. The multimillion Nortel deal is to last for the next three years and brings yet another major player in telecommunications into Grand Prix racing.

Nortel is a Canadian company, headquartered at Brampton, Ontario. It has a turnover of $18bn and is involved in 180 countries. It grew out of the Northern Telecom company and is now one of the world's leading digital communication companies and is involved in data transfer, telephone services and cable television. "Both Williams and Nortel Networks rely on advanced technology and unparalleled innovation to be global leaders in their fields," said James Long, president of the company's Enterprise Networks offshoot.

The deal is the company's largest ever sponsorship although Nortel has been involved with Canadian racer Scott Goodyear for some time and is supporting his efforts with Panther Racing in the Indy Racing League. Nortel had been approached by a number of F1 teams but picked Williams because of the team's remarkable record of success. At the launch Nortel bosses said they had also considered the Olympic Games and World Cup soccer but had concluded that none of them had the same appeal as F1. "This initiative is designed to be a key component of our on-going communications efforts to build the brand awareness of Nortel Networks by associating ourselves with exciting and dynamic global events," added Long. Nortel will also help Williams to improve its data communication networks.

The deal with Brother is for one year and will see Brother badging on the Williams drivers and team personnel but not on the cars. Brother was involved last year with the now-defunct Tyrrell team.

Sir Frank Williams admits that winning will not be easy this year. "We never adopt a holding pattern, and we are seeking to be always on the podium and snatch a win when others stumble."

Commenting on his lack of speed in recent testing the team's new hiring Alessandro Zanardi admitted that the change to F1 has not been easy. "Right now I am driving flat out and it's not fast enough," he said. Hopefully I will get there some time soon. It will take a little time to find my limits. When I first went to America I was uncompetitive but then I won two championships in a row..."

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