The MotoGP race at Qatar brought more than just controversy over night races, and rain in the desert; It also brought some good news too. At the event, Yamaha announced that it had clinched a sponsorship deal with the Malaysian oil giant Petronas, due to last for three years. The deal sees the Petronas name appearing on the team clothing, and on the belly pan of both Fiat Yamaha M1s.
What was not announced at the time was the size of the deal: according to the sports marketing publication SportsPro Magazine, the three-year contract has a total value of $24 million, or $8 million a year - a sizable sum by any account, and more than enough to fund a satellite team (for comparison, the same source claims that the Monster - Tech 3 Yamaha deal was worth $2.5 million a year). But it also puts into perspective what the relative value of Valentino Rossi's marketing magic is: The deal is also larger than the $7 million which Rizla is said to be paying Suzuki for title sponsorship in 2009.
Interesting as these numbers are, they should probably be treated with a grain of salt. It is highly unlikely that the $8 million Petronas is said to be paying Yamaha will be a single lump sum - the oil giant was already cooperating with Yamaha on their MotoGP project, and so a sizable chunk of that money could well be in the form of making race gasoline, oils, consultancy and other services available.
Mention these numbers to people in the paddock, though, and they will laugh in your face. Multiple sources inside the paddock have confided to MotoGPMatters.com that the Rizla deal, for example, was closer to half a million dollars, rather than the seven million reported by SportsPro, and similar numbers were bandied about for the Monster deal with both Tech 3 and Kawasaki. Of course, the people passing on these numbers had them at second hand too, and their own roles leave them far from unbiased observers, making their comments interesting, though perhaps not as reliable as we might hope for.
Whatever the truth of the matter, what the Petronas tie-up does show is the real problem with MotoGP is a matter of perspective. One view is that costs in the series are getting out of hand, and that they need to be gotten back under control. But you could equally assert that the series isn't generating enough income for the exposure it generates, and teams are selling themselves out too cheaply. Which of these is correct depends on where you choose to view the situation from.