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Posts tagged “Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Racing Gets Official Launch As Di Grassi Confirmed As Driver

Virgin Racing has officially launched its new F1 programme in London today.

The team, originally known as Manor GP, will be backed heavily by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.  The British born businessman was very interested in brand exposure through F1, following a successful sponsorship year with the Brawn GP team.

The “worst kept secret” in the world as it was joked was confirmed as the team took the opportunity to show off their drivers, logo and also have a chat with the world’s media at a lavish morning in Notting Hill.

Timo Glock was confirmed as a driver some weeks ago, but Lucas Di Grassi comes to the team with a deal penned in the past few days – he tested with Renault recently at Jerez.

He comes from success in GP2.

“It feels great to be here, it’s a dream come true for me after two years of being a test driver, and from that and from GP2 I feel I’m ready and am very confident in this team,” said di Grassi.

“We’re here to race, not to do politics or mess around, we’re here to race.”

The team also confirmed their test drivers as  Alvaro Parente and Luiz Razia.

“I’m going to do my best to do a good job. It’s great to be with this team and there’s going to be a lot of success.” Parente said

The team’s sporting director John Booth said he was delighted with the line-up.

“I have 20 years’ experience working with drivers,” he said. “I have been privileged to work with some fantastic drivers in that time and I hope that’s helped in giving me an eye for a good driver.

“The four drivers we have here are the four we wanted in our line-up, they’re the perfect drivers.”

The colours of the team appear to be black with white and dashes of red.

Branson at the launch


Branson Unlikely To Put Money Into Brawn As Virgin Sponsorship Dwindles

Sir Richard Branson has dashed hopes for Brawn GP of more sponsorship finances, a new livery and possibly new name as he claimed he would not be putting millions into the GP team as we head over towards the half-way mark of the 2009 season.

The British born billionaire owner of the Virgin group began sponsoring Brawn GP not long after the cars appeared in Australia with minor logos which have expanded across the cars which remain largely blank.  With Brawn’s early successes, and Virgin using BGP in their current online and newspaper commercials, many analysts believed that Virgin could be on the verge of re-branding the team altogether.

However in a 5Live interview all this seemed to be gone.

“We got in when it was very cheap and it’s been great for us with global coverage, but I suspect next year the price will be astronomical and we may have to look somewhere else with a smaller team,” Branson commented.

It is believed that Branson invested £250,000 into Ross Brawn’s small team.

Australian Grand Prix 2009: Button Wins An Epic Race

Jenson Button has taken the flag to win his second Grand Prix, with the Brawn GP team in their first ever race.

Brawn had a 1-2 in their first ever GP, with Rubens Barrichello coming second and initially Jarno Trulli was 3rd, HOWEVER it has been ruled Trulli must serve a 25 second penatly for overtaking under yellow flags and subequently he falls to 11th leaving Lewis Hamilton in 3rd.


The drivers lined up to start the season, and Jenson Button got a fantastic getaway from the line.  The same cannot be said for Rubens Barrichello whose anti-stall kicked in and he was swallowed up by the field in the charge for the first corner.  The Scuderia Ferrari’s looked very good off the line with the soft slicks and KERS systems, leaving Felipe Massa in 3rd and Kimi Raikkonen in 4th.

Behind them, Rubens Barrichello got nudged from nehind, putting him into a spin and he hit Mark Webber who hit Nick Heidfeld in the BMW Sauber.  Both suffered big damage and had to pit, pretty much ruining their race chances.

During the same incident, Fernando Alonso ended up grass-cutting in avoidance, throwing the Renault R29 through the gravel in hsi avoidance of Heikki Kovalainen who bent all of his front suspension in, and had to retire.  Barrichello’s only damage, a loss of the front wing endplate, which would be worsened with a tag onto Kimi Raikkonen a few laps later.

Jenson Button began to extend his lead, which in truth never looked in danger.  The Brawn BGP001 car was clearly far superior to any other car on the circuit.  The Ferrari’s and Vettel kept with them in the beginning, but the Italian marques slick tyre graining forced them to pit on just lap 10.

Nico Rosberg took advantage and put the Williams into third, but all the time he gained catching Vettel was lost in the pits with a tyre change problem.  His team mate, Kazuki Nakajima smashed his car into the wall at turn 4, unloading the rear end on the raised kerb of the exit and totalled the front end.  The proximity to the circuit, and the debris meant the safety car was called out.

Button has just left the pits when the Safety Car was released to initially it has Vettel leading behind it.  This led to an almost DTM-Esq safety car debacle as the driver put his window down and waved the drivers passed.  Almost humourous, but wasted vital laps.  While all this was going on, the debris took a long while to clear and all drivers were suffering with the slick tyres cooling dramatically.

Giancarlo Fisichella took the topportunity to pit, but his brakes were poor and he ended up missing his pitbox altogether, nearly mowing down his left side tyre change crews.  This cost the Italian majorly vital time when they were looking good for point scoring potential.

On the restart Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr lost it on cold brakes and tyres and ended up submerged in the gravel trap at turn 1, nearly taking out Kimi Raikkonen from behind.

Not long after this Ferrari’s Felipe Massa slowed and ended up retiring from the race with an as yet unknown problem, possibly the KERS system broke.  Kimi Raikkonen would later stuff the Ferrari into the wall leaving this a non-scorer for the Italian team, just like in 2008.

The cars continued around with Jenson Button building an unassailable lead.  Sebastian Vettel in second was fighting with Robert Kubica, who tried a daring manoeuvre around the outside into turn 3, where David Coulthard smashed over Alexander Wurz in 2007.  A big crash ensued today with the BMW driver puting across the front of the Red Bull car, smashing the wings off, the damage worsened when Kubica spun straight across the front of the young German.

Both had massive front end damage, leading to them both hitting the wall at turn 5, Kubica in massive fashion like Rubens Barrichello did with Ferrari some years back.  Vettel lost his front left wheel but continued racing around the circuit, with the safety car out theoretically no-one could pass him and he could keep his position.  We thought Vettel was a complete idiot because he would be disqualified but it turned out Red Bull bosses had told him to do this!  They have now been fined and dealt with [see below].

The safety car caused a second debacle with Jarno Trulli overtaking Lewis Hamilton under a yellow flag for 3rd position.  The Italian has now lost that position in a ruling by the FIA.

Kubica and Vettel’s incident left Rubens Barrichello 2nd to complete a 1-2 for Brawn in what has been frankly carnage.  I am yet to be convinced by the new cars and rules.


The 2009 ING Australian Grand Prix;

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia;

58 Laps;

Sunny/Sunset, Temp Av: 25oC.


Pos Driver Team Time
1 J. Button Brawn-Mercedes
2 R. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes +0.807
3 L. Hamilton* McLaren-Mercedes +2.914
4 T. Glock Toyota +4.435
5 F. Alonso Renault +4.879
6 N. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +5.722
7 S. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +6.004
8 S. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +6.289
9 A. Sutil Force India-Merc +6.355
10 N. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +7.085
11 J. Trulli* Toyota Penalty
12 G. Fisichella Force India-Merc +7.354
13 M. Webber RBR-Renault +1 lap
14 S. Vettel RBR-Renault +2 laps
15 R. Kubica BMW Sauber +3 laps
16 K. Raikkonen Scuderia Ferrari +3 laps

* – See penalties below

Fastest Lap: 1.27.706 – N. Rosberg, Williams


Driver Team Lap Reason
F. Massa Scuderia Ferrari 46 Engine/KERS
N. Piquet Renault 25 Spin
K. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 18 Accident
H. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1 Suspension


  • Jarno Trulli given a 25 second penalty for overtaking Lewis Hamilton under yellow flags/safety car.  Subsequently dropped to 11th place.
  • S. Vettel given 10 place grid penalty for the Malaysian GP for continuing with race ending damage
  • Red Bull Racing fined $50,000 for telling S. Vettel to continue with race ending damage


Jenson Button (Brawn) 1st – “This is a fairy tale ending to the first race of our career together and I hope that we can continue this way and I know we are going to fight every moment we can to keep this car competitive.”

Rubens Barrichello (Brawn) 2nd – “I never thought I could finish on the podium after the start, I hit anti-stall and recovered quickly, then I was hit from behind by a McLaren and that put me sideways and I hit someone really hard.  I had a lot of mixed emotions and it was fantastic, I’m delighted”

Fernando Alonso (Renault) 5th – “In terms of the overall results and looking at our competitors, we have to be happy with the result,”

Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 7th – “First race first point, so I’m very happy,” said Buemi. “Maybe we had a bit of luck with the accidents, but even without that we were not too bad and our strategy worked well and I am very happy with the way my race went.”

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) Ret [16th] – “It was my mistake to hit the wall, it was just sudden but I spun. Looking afterwards we would probably have finished second, and it is a shame.”


Start of the 2009 Season!

Start of the 2009 Season!

Turn 1 Mayhem

Turn 1 Mayhem

Turn 1 Mayhem continued...

Turn 1 Mayhem continued...

As predicted, many cars ended up breaking those massive front wings

As predicted, many cars ended up breaking those massive front wings

Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber both had bad days

Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber both had bad days

Hamilton and Trulli fought it out

Hamilton and Trulli fought it out

The safety car was used a few times!

The safety car was used a few times!

Piquet crashed

Piquet crashed

Massa broke down, completing a crap day for Ferrari

Massa broke down, completing a crap day for Ferrari

Vettel and Kubica had a coming together with a handful of laps to go, runing both their podium chances

Vettel and Kubica had a coming together with a handful of laps to go, runing both their podium chances

Moments after hitting Vettel, Kubica had a nasty shunt into the wall

Moments after hitting Vettel, Kubica had a nasty shunt into the wall

The incident left Vettel with the questions to answer, leading to a penalty

The incident left Vettel with the questions to answer, leading to a penalty

However Button took the flag on only his second GP win!

However Button took the flag on only his second GP win!

Brawn boys 1 and 2!

Brawn boys 1 and 2!


Race Review – Courtesy of BBC, UK ONLY


Full Press Conference – Courtesy of BBC, UK ONLY


Branson Loves F1 But It Needs To Change Before He Will Enter

Sir Richard Branson has declared his love for Grand Prix and F1 racing in an interview with BBC this morning, but admitted it needs to change before it is viable for Virgin to enter.

Branson, said that cost cuts needed to be made and that it was not environmentally friendly enough for his image to enter, but it won’t rule out his bid for Honda.

It is odd that a man who runs an inter-continental airline is concerned about the environment, but there you go.  It can be more green by holding 90% of races in Europe at the proper venues, there’s an idea Bernie!

“I love grands prix,” said Branson, who was a guest of Force India at last year’s Italian Grand Prix.

“If Bernie Ecclestone can make it more cost-effective for the likes of the Virgin brand to come into the sport, and if he can champion clean motor-car racing – which is possible to do by making sure all the cars run on clean fuels -then at some stage we might be interested in getting involved.”

“I think there are faults that would need to be rectified before we could go into F1.” he added

A Virgin Atlantic 747 Jet at Goodwood Festival of Speed

A Virgin Atlantic 747 Jet at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Honda Could Still Disband The Team Despite New Interest

A spokesperson for the Honda Motor Company has declared that shutting down and disbanding the F1 team is still an option despite heightened interest in the past few days about a purchase.

The Japanese company admitted that a buy-out was still the favoured option, but something needs to be sorted out soon otherwise they will have no other option.

It is also believed that Mercedes Benz, who have offered a full Engine, Gearbox and KERS system to the new team want a decision by next week about supply otherwise they will pull their offer.  Norbert Haug said a short time ago that they could not wait forever for a decision.

Honda spokesman Hiroyuki Murase told The Associated Press: “It’s true that we are pursuing several potential buyers. But the team may still have to be disbanded if the negotiations fail.”

Richard Branson and the Virgin group are believed to have made an offer to buy the team, and an MBO from Nick Fry is still another main option.

Bernie Ecclestone said in an interview with The Mirror newspaper that he was very happy Sir Richard was interested in F1.

“We would welcome them with open arms.  He’s exactly the type of person we would want in the sport.

“Sir Richard Branson is a wonderful guy. I met him at Monza last year and we got on very well.”

Honda Confirm Branson Interest And Offer For Team

The Honda F1 Team have confirmed that multi-billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson is one of the front-running parites in the purchase of the team ahead of the 2009 season, and has put in an offer.

The owner of the Virgin group was said to be interested yesterday in a leak from the team, but today a spokesman confirmed the rumour.

“We are negotiating with several buyers and one of these parties is the Virgin Group,” a Honda spokesman stated.

“They [Virgin] have made a bid to purchase the team,”

Branson is expected to purchase the team for just £1, but needs to put at least £40million in for one season’s running.  It is believed that after purchase, Branson 58, would leave the running of the team to Nick Fry and Ross Brawn.

His Virgin group would be the leading sponsor on the car.

Branson has dabbled in F1 before, sponsoring Jordan in 2002, and then sponsoring Japanese driver Takuma Sato for the past 4 years with his Virgin Atlantic brand.  It is hot rumour that Sato would be one of the chosen drivers for the new team, alongside Brit Jenson Button.

Branson Tipped For Honda Buy-Out

British newspaper The Daily Telegraph have tipped Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson as the front runner in the race to save the Honda F1 Team.

Branson, a multi-billionaire, has multiple holdings through his Virgin group including Airlines, Phones and Television.  An F1 team would just add to his portfolio.

Branson often enjoys one-up-manship on rivals, and also likes to be on the front pages so buying an F1 team and “saving” hundreds of jobs in one of Britain’s favourite new sports would really work for him.

“Formula one would do well to have them on board,” a source from inside the Virgin Group told The Daily Telegraph