While the world is looking at Ferrari and pondering what will happen after Luca di Montezemolo steps down, there has been another key development in recent days that could have a major impact on the Italian team in the long term.

The death, at the age of 79, of Emilio Botín, the chairman of Santander, could turn out to be very significant indeed.

Under Botín, Santander expanded from being a major regional bank in Spain to become a global heavyweight with a market capitalisation of more than $120 billion. As part of that expansion Botín became one of the leading advocates of Formula 1 as a promotional tool.

Santander entered the sport in 2007 as the title sponsor of the British GP and a supporter of McLaren, which that year had just taken on Fernando Alonso.

The goal of the sponsorships was to increase the public awareness of the Santander brand in Britain as the bank consolidated the assets of the Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley companies under its banner.

Recognition of the Santander brand went from 20 per cent to 82 per cent in three years, and by 2013 had reached 94 per cent. With Alonso moving on to Ferrari in 2010 Botín decided to follow, while also continuing with McLaren, and announced a sponsorship deal with the Italian team as well as further sponsorships of individual grands prix.