Credit crunch weighs on Monaco GP

Wed May 20, 2009 8:10pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

MONACO (Reuters) - Indian magnate Vijay Mallya refuses to let the global credit crunch cramp his style, even if other high rollers may be keeping a lower profile at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.

The aviation, beer and liquor tycoon, who also owns the Force India Formula One team, has his 95-meter yacht 'Indian Empress' moored in the Mediterranean principality's harbor and is preparing to party.

"I think glamour and sport go hand-in-hand and it's no more obvious than in Monaco," said the self-styled 'King of Good Times', whose personal wealth has suffered in the downturn to the extent that Forbes magazine listed him in March as one of the world's 355 ex-billionaires.

"Monaco is a race that is so famous worldwide that almost everybody knows it and wants to come to it, so it is not only important from a team point of view but from a sponsors' point of view as well," he added.

"We will be hosting two parties again, as brand awareness is even more important in these days of economic downturn.

"The days of unlimited budgets are of course gone, and clearly one has to watch that the end justifies the means, but we still believe that these events give 'bang for buck' and are an integral part of why we are involved in F1 as a project."

Monaco's Prince Albert and the usual cast of international rich and famous will turn out at an exclusive charity auction and fashion show on Friday to benefit the Elton John AIDS foundation. Others, though, have become more reluctant to flaunt their wealth in a recession.

Some of the bankers have disappeared while chief executives, as well as the major carmakers who dominate the billion-dollar sport, are wary of being seen to be living it up while shareholders and employees feel the pain.   Continued...

<p>BMW Sauber Formula One driver Nick Heidfeld (L) of Germany and Renault Formula One driver Nelson Piquet of Brazil drive their cars during a training session for the Monaco F1 Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, May 24, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Pratta/Files</p>