The name Sinopec is probably a bit of a mystery brand to most F1 fans but China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation hopes to establish itself as a household name by becoming the China Grand Prix's main commercial sponsor. Sinopec is China's biggest petrochemical company so in many ways it is a good fit. The company signed a long-term deal with British sports management company Allsopp, Parker & Marsh (APM) in March, beating out banking giant HSBC to win the sponsorship deal despite entering sponsorship talks at a very late stage. The oil giant paid a reported HK$140 million for three years. Sinopec is the sixth largest petrochemical company in the world, number one in Asia, and it was ranked 70th in the world in the Fortune 500 of 2002. Motorsport provides a great opportunity to boost the brand and open up new markets. 'Formula One is a good vehicle to further build international awareness,' company president Wang Jiming said in Monaco after the deal was signed. Wang believes somewhere among China's 1.3 billion people 'there must be a Schumacher'. But tracking down and developing that person to Formula One standard is going to take the kind of cash only companies like Sinopec have. Wang reportedly asked F1 head honcho Bernie Ecclestone about the best way to set up a Chinese Formula One team in order to foster local drivers. Ecclestone has said it wouldn't make sense to base a team in Asia as all the expertise and most of the races are in Europe but an Asian sponsor buying into an existing team makes sense. That fuelled intense speculation linking the company with a move to buy into a Formula One team. Wang has not put forward Sinopec as a potential backer but motor racing loves a juicy rumour and the names being bandied about in industry circles include Jordan, Jaguar and British American Racing. 'If we can get them to agree ... it could happen next year,' Ecclestone said. While motor racing is still a lot less popular than football, basketball and table tennis in China, the China Grand Prix is expected to give the sport a big boost and garner a lot of TV coverage - F1 delivers the third-highest sports event viewing figures in the world. Sinopec also bought the title rights to broadcast the event on China Central Television's sports channel. The two deals make the Grand Prix a major marketing vehicle for Sinopec. Sinopec is keen to emulate the success of companies like Mobil and Shell, which have been successful in boosting their profile internationally through sponsoring F1. 'We looked more on the invisible value and potential benefits to our company by sponsoring the event. We believe, via the media of F1 racing, the prestige of our company and our brands could be greatly improved,' said Wang. The company's asphalt division has already benefited. Sinopec has won one contract, providing hi-tech asphalt to the Shanghai racetrack. The Shanghai race is expected to draw mostly male viewers in the 15-34 age group, from wealthier households, which is a useful demographic for Sinopec. The company is probably the highest profile sponsor at the Shanghai track, but it is the Grand Prix's second biggest sponsor in real terms - the biggest is the Shanghai municipal government. The government expects the Grand Prix to help raise awareness of China's technical capabilities and economic potential among the sport's massive worldwide audience. China's inclusion in the Grand Prix circuit could help Chinese car companies get more involved in the motor racing industry.