Santander chairman Emilio Botin, the driving force behind his company's high profile sponsorship in Formula 1, has died. He was 79.
The Spaniard helped turn Santander from a small domestic finance house into Europe's biggest bank, with €1.4trillion of funds and 200,000 employees worldwide.
He decided that F1 was the perfect way to boost the profile of his company, first arriving as a sponsor of McLaren when Fernando Alonso joined the Woking-based team in 2007.
Botin duly formed a close partnership with Alonso, and his backing moved to Ferrari when the Spaniard joined the Maranello outfit in 2010.
But Botin's support of F1 expanded beyond just Alonso, as Santander maintained ties with the McLaren team and became title sponsor of a number of grand prix races.
McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis was one of the first to pay tribute to Botin and the role he had played in F1.
"Passionate and charming, he was firm but always fair. I feel privileged to have known him, and proud to be able to call him a friend," said Dennis.
"He adored motor racing - there was no one more enthusiastic in the McLaren garage than he was when a race win was in the offing. The world has lost a great man."
A statement on Ferrari's Twitter feed added: Sad day today. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the chairman Emilio Botin."