GRAEME Lowdon, the president of Marussia Virgin Racing, has rubbished claims Jerome d’Ambrosio is on the verge of losing his race seat because of a sponsorship shortfall.
It is believed that several of d’Ambrosio’s sponsors have not submitted relevant payments to the Dinnington-based team and the Formula One backmarkers could replace the Belgian rookie with reserve driver Robert Wickens.
Eric Boullier, team principal of Renault and CEO of Gravity Sport Management, which manages d’Ambrosio, is set to jet out to Belgium today to chase down the outstanding payments. In a foreign newspaper, he has claimed Virgin are “starting to get impatient” with the situation.
Reports suggest d’Ambrosio owes in the region of five million euros (£4.4 million).
But Lowdon is confident d’Ambrosio’s sponsors will cough up the money and told The Star: “We have an excellent relationship with Eric [Boullier]. We have known him for a long time and there is a high degree of trust between us. We have made it clear to Eric we are happy with the performance of Jerome in the cockpit.
“He is doing a great job and we have a really good relationship with his management team so I’m sure they will be doing their best to make sure everything is in place regarding Jerome’s sponsorship.
“We are not forcing the sponsors to pay up. We have an agreement with them in place and I don’t see any reason why they won’t be kept.”
Lowdon said there is no strict deadline on when d’Ambrosio’s backers have to stump up the cash.
Asked whether he feels d’Ambrosio will be with them until the end of the season, Lowdon added: “I would hope so. His sponsors are delighted to have backed such a talent and such a promising driver for the future. They should give themselves a pat on the back for finding a guy who has just effortlessly slipped into F1.”
But Lowdon has warned: “It is important contractual obligations are carried out because this is an expensive business.”
Virgin team principal John Booth added: “Jerome is one to watch for the future. As with any driver agreement with the team, as long as the terms of the contract are fulfilled, it would be our intention to continue with Jerome.”