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.
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 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.”