T-Minus: Arrows Saviour Turned Swindler to Run for President

Prince Malik Ado-Ibrahim is aiming to be Nigeria’s next President, 23 years after he charmed the Arrows F1 team with fanciful promises that quickly evaporated.

Malik has been preselected by the social-democratic Young Progressives Party (wait…Young Progressives? Young? Malik was born in the 1960s!), and will contest Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential Elections.

It will be an uphill battle for the YPP who purport to have 3 million members and 2 million ’active supporters’ but won just 0.1% of the vote in 2019 and hold one Senate seat.

Let’s hope there’s more substance to his Presidential run than his foray into Formula 1…

It was 1999 when the Prince (the third son of a Nigerian tribal king) emerged as potential saviour for Arrows, a team which had swung between the mid-field and the backrow for much of their time in the sport but by the late 90s were struggling to keep up with the Jones.

Enter Prince Malik. In a partnership with private equity firm Morgan Grenfell, the Prince announced he would take a 25% stake in the team (with Morgan Grenfell holding 45%). Tom Walkinshaw would retain 25% and stay on as team principal, while the remaining 5% would be held back management for future opportunities.

The Mike Coughlan and Eghbal Hamidy designed Arrows A20 would be powered by a Cosworth-motor (replacing the in-house Hart engines from 1998), with rookies Pedro de la Rosa and Tora Takagi driving.

New drivers, new owners, new engine deal and a fresh paintiob in deference to de la Rosa’s Repsol money suggested a new era for the team.

De la Rosa picked up a point for sixth on debut in a race of attrition at Albert Park, but a talking point that weekend was the ‘T-Minus’ countdown on the side of the cars, along with promises of a “big surprise”.

When the countdown finally got to 0 at Imola, a press release announced the launch of a new T-Minus brand which had been “devised by Prince Malik to provide Arrows with its own exclusive F1 brand” (“WOW!” said exactly no one; ”very disappointing”, said Joe Saward).

Arrows went on to explain that T-Minus would “appear on a wide range of high quality products, from energy drinks and clothing, through to limited editions made by prestigious global manufacturers”.

A launch event featured the team’s drivers and grid girls alongside T-Minus branded energy drinks and mountain bikes, as well as Ducatis and Lamborghinis—the latter set to be made available via dealer networks and through the Arrows.com website (really?).

And then… *crickets*

The drinks were rarer than Rich Energy, and the promised Ducatis and Diablos never materialised. By September, the Prince had failed to stump up the funds to complete his takeover, and he and T-Minus—which had generated exactly zero dollars—disappeared for good.

Bizarrely given the circumstances of his departure, an inactive LinkedIn profile which appears to be Malik’s claims he remained involved with the team until March 2001…

Malik’s CV between Arrows and his Presidential run is full of various executive roles, most notably at the helm of renewable energy company Bicenergy, and as Executive Chairman of Nigus International, a company described in such vague terms I still don’t really know what they do. 

For a man with a reported net worth of USD $300m, many of his claimed achievements appear vague, embellished or difficult to verify. There’s scant information for example about his alleged drive at the Le Mans 24 Hour, his skills as an “accomplished polo player“, or the Nigus Enfinity—an electric car he announced in 2017 which has so far not materialised.

One thing is for sure, no one could ever accuse Prince Malik of lacking bravado. His Presidential run is centred around “visionary leadership” and criticism of existing parties and voters: “If you vote for a party that has failed you in the next election, you are dumb”.

I’m sure I won’t be the only motor racing fan watching on with intrigue at the Nigerian election next year…

Scott Russell

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