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History is littered with failed Formula 1 projects, but one of the most intriguing and bewildering flops of this century was one that aimed to make Jean Alesi a team principal and could have provided Lewis Hamilton’s first F1 drive in a Ron Dennis-blessed, Japanese-funded, McLaren-Mercedes B-team.

The mysterious figure behind the Direxiv plan was Shin Akiyama, who from Monaco ran a Tokyo-based investment company that aimed to expand by “collaborating with European organisations looking to enter into the Japanese market using motorsports as a medium for promotions throughout Europe and Japan”. He was from a wealthy family background, sustained by a pharmaceutical products business, and had some serious cash to splash.

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