Hilton success welcome news admidst F1 economy fears

Hotel giant Hilton has announced a sharp increase in revenue as a result of its partnership with McLaren Mercedes. The announcement will be welcome news for those in Formula One who fear that sponsors could be turned away from the sport as a result of the global ‘credit-crunch’.

Hilton is the only hotel company sponsoring F1 and expects to double its hotel to revenue to $5m (£2.7m) this year. When McLaren first bore the Hilton logo on their cars in 2005 the company was only making a one-to-one return on investment, but this has now increased eight-fold, according to Hilton’s director of sports sponsorship Robin Fenwick.

Hilton monitors its return by keeping track of reservations made by members of its racing club. “Membership sits at 20,000 ABC1 members – four times greater than at the start of 2007,” Mr Fenwick told The Independent.

Formula One has yet to be seriously hit by the struggling global economy, but fears about the future reared their head again going into the inaugural European Grand Prix at Valencia with news that engine firm Mecachrome had pulled out of the sport as a result of losses.

It has also emerged that Formula One supplier Pankl, an Austrian motor racing company, has posted a more than €1 million Euros loss for the past trading quarter.

Bernie Ecclestone has played down fears that the struggling economy is affecting Formula One, but he has acknowledged that the multi-billion dollar sport is by no means immune

“It seems that everyone is affected, but we will have to wait and see,” the 77-year-old Formula 1 chief executive said in interview with Spain’s El Mundo newspaper.

“At the moment we are not noticing it, but we are not immune to anything. We will have to be prepared,” the Briton added.

Hilton welcomes Senna, triggers McLaren rumours

GP2 star Bruno Senna has been announced as Hilton Racing’s new Brand Ambassador. Hilton Racing is the brand which markets the partnership between Hilton Hotels and McLaren via a racing membership programme.

The announcement has triggered rumours that Senna, nephew of triple world champion and former McLaren driver Ayrton, could be bound for the Woking squad as a test driver for 2009.