Nissan's premium brand Infiniti is to enter Formula 1 as a major sponsor of the Red Bull Racing team in 2011, although the move will not extend to a re-branding of the team's Renault engines, as rumored earlier this week.
Infiniti, which launched as the luxury car brand of Nissan years ago in the U.S. but is only now becoming a worldwide brand – has embarked on the move to increase its brand awareness as part of a major push to raise sales worldwide.
The initial two-year deal, which will also act as a precursor to technical collaboration between the company and Red Bull Racing, will see Infiniti's name and logos feature on team clothing and prominent parts of the car,including the rear wing and nose.
Infiniti's presence will be alongside, and not instead of, the continued major presence of the Renault brand (a long-term partner of Nissan) at the championship-winning team. The French car manufacturer remains the team's official engine supplier and its logos will continue to feature heavily on the car.
"Red Bull has always taken a different approach, so when the Infiniti executives outlined their innovative plan to us we were very open to working with them," Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said. "Coming off our 2010 drivers' and constructors' World Championships, we feel even more excited to be starting the 2011 season with a new and committed partner like Infiniti."
Andy Palmer, senior vp of Infiniti, said: "Over the midterm, Infiniti will be simultaneously expanding its global presence and broadening its product range. Given these twin ambitions, it is clear that F1 offers us an unrivaled global communications platform."
Horner believes that the arrival of Infiniti into F1 is great news for the sport, at a time when it is attracting fresh manufacturer interest following the arrival of sponsorship of Lotus, as well as Russian makes Lada and Marussia in the last two years.
"From a Red Bull perspective and from an F1 perspective, it is positive news that we have got Nissan and Infiniti coming into the sport – and picking the sport because of the exposure that it is generating globally," he told AUTOSPORT. "It is not only a fantastic news story for us, but as manufacturers have been leaving in droves over the last few years, for a Japanese manufacturer to be coming back in is great news."
Infiniti's decision to enter F1 has also been welcomed by Renault, which believes the collaboration is a big boost to both car brands.
"While Renault is rightfully very proud of our achievements within Formula 1, we know the future is about collaboration," said Bernard Rey, president of Renault Sport F1. "To have a talented and committed alliance partner like Infiniti is very welcome as we set out on the current and future challenges in F1. So it is with great pleasure that I would like to welcome Andy Palmer and his entire team in our F1 adventure, and I look forward to starting the 2011 season together as alliance partners."