Williams seeking new title sponsor

LONDON Wed Jan 4, 2012 12:05pm GMT

Williams Formula One drivers Rubens Barrichello of Brazil takes a curve during the third free practice session of the Italian F1 Grand Prix at Monza circuit September 10, 2011. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

Williams Formula One drivers Rubens Barrichello of Brazil takes a curve during the third free practice session of the Italian F1 Grand Prix at Monza circuit September 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito

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LONDON (Reuters) - The Williams Formula One team are seeking a new title sponsor after the termination of their agreement with U.S. telecommunications giant AT&T.

"We have reached the conclusion of our partnership, the contract expired on Dec 31 by mutual agreement," a team spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The AT&T branding had also been removed from the team website (www.williamsf1.com) and list of partners.

Media reports indicated the AT&T deal had been worth around $7.0 million (4.5 million pounds) a season, a comparatively small sum compared to title sponsorships at many other teams but still an important contribution to the overall budget.

The British-based team endured their worst season in Formula One last year, taking just five points from 19 races and finishing ninth overall.

The former world champions lost two blue chip sponsors at the end of 2010, with Dutch electronics company Philips and troubled bank and previous title backer Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) departing.

However the team, who listed in Frankfurt last March, gained Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA along with driver Pastor Maldonado.

They have also built up a relationship with Qatar, where they have a technology centre, and are hoping to strengthen those ties further.

A team source said the AT&T deal had not been 'sustainable' at the existing level and Williams were now in advanced negotiations with another telecommunications company for the title sponsorship. No details were given.

Williams have yet to decide their second driver for the 2012 season starting with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 18.

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello is hoping to be kept on for his 20th season in F1 but faces strong competition from Germany's Adrian Sutil.

Russian Vitaly Petrov and Brazilian Bruno Senna are among several other 2011 drivers also looking for seats after being dropped by Renault, who will race this year as Lotus.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by John Mehaffey)

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