Branson launches Virgin Racing F1 team

Sir Richard Branson's love of Formula One today resulted in one of the world's richest men throwing the full weight of the Virgin brand behind one of the sport's new teams.

Manor GP, one of four new marques who will help make up an expanded 13-team grid for next season, have been rebranded Virgin Racing thanks to a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with Branson.



Tycoon Branson confirmed one of F1's worst-kept secrets at a press conference in Notting Hill, London.

Branson's entrance, along with Manor boss John Booth and technical director Nick Wirth, was heralded by a dozen electric guitarists creating a sound akin to a Formula One engine.

Explaining his latest venture, Branson said: "Our first year in F1 (with Brawn GP) was tremendous for the Virgin brand, so why not go in again with a new team from scratch?



"If you look at the history of Virgin we've loved supporting technical breakthroughs, great engineers, and there's something like 120 engineers working away on this project."



Branson confirmed Virgin Racing will operate on the smallest budget of any of the new teams, under £40million.



Booth, whose Sheffield-based team are arguably the surprise package, has confirmed his hope the car will be ready for its first test at the end of January.

Following a long-standing career racing and running teams in the lower levels of motor sport, Booth said: "I've been asking the question all night as to how we managed to arrive here.



"But the budget restrictions have allowed us to get involved, and at the moment I'm on cloud nine.



"But we're the new kids on the block and we need to earn our place on the grid."



The team, meanwhile, have also confirmed the signing of Lucas di Grassi as partner to Timo Glock after two seasons in GP2, and as test and reserve driver with Renault.

"Timo and I are here together to build a team," remarked di Grassi.



"We're not working as separate individuals, but as a whole group, working as hard as we can to push the team forward."

Ten months ago Branson flirted with the idea of buying Honda, who opted to pull out of F1 last December citing the global economic downturn.

Although stating at the time "I love grands prix," Branson, though, insisted the sport needed to be "more cost effective" and with cars "run on clean fuels" before he would consider becoming involved.



In the intervening period, Formula One has attempted to cut costs, and is the reason why Virgin Racing will be joined on the grid by Lotus, US F1 and Campos next year.



As for greener, more fuel-efficient cars, they remain a future hope as bio-fuels are making an impact, but only very slowly.



Despite Branson's protestations, that did not stop him stepping in to help Brawn GP after team principal Ross Brawn led a management buy-out of Honda.



Ahead of the Australian GP that heralded the start of last season, Branson touched down in Melbourne to confirm a small but significant sponsorship deal with Brawn.



It was mutually beneficial to both parties as Branson dipped his toe in F1's waters and was bitten by the bug.



As for Brawn, they gained the publicity required at the time given the horrendous few months that had preceded their salvation.



Branson was certainly a popular figure in the paddock and in the Brawn garage and occasionally on the pitwall as the team triumphed in spectacular fashion.



Full branding, as had been speculated upon in Melbourne, failed to materialise though due to an apparent impasse over costs.



But Branson can at least say he played his part in helping Brawn become world champions, with Jenson Button claiming the drivers' crown and the team the constructors' trophy.



Now, however, Branson will have to content himself with watching his own cars almost certainly struggle at the back of the pack as with any new team.



Further explaining his reasoning, he said: "Last year with Brawn, they started the season as a David and it ended it as a Goliath.



"So we searched around for another great team, another David team, we have one and we will see how it goes."



Under the slogan 'a new team for a new era', Branson added: "The new era is seeing the costs of entry come down.



"This team will be the lowest-budget team in Formula One. It will run under the £40million per year that was being set by Formula One.



"But money's not everything. They are determined to prove that via engineering prowess, great drivers and a great affinity with the public they can do well."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high