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Branson: Ferrari comments are "sad"

NEWS STORY
27/02/2010

Richard Branson, head of the Virgin empire which is backing Manor Grand Prix' effort, has hit back at comments made by Ferrari earlier this week when the Italian team was critical of the new teams entering the sport this season.

While the full force of the Maranello outfit's outburst was saved for US F1 and Campos, not to mention Max Mosley, Virgin didn't entirely escape. In an obvious reference to the British team which missed the Valencia test and subsequently only enjoyed limited running in Jerez and even in Barcelona, the Italian team said: "Of the thirteen teams who signed up, or were induced to sign up, for this year's championship, to date only eleven of them have heeded the call, turning up on track, some later than others, and while some have managed just a few hundred kilometres, others have done more, but at a much reduced pace."

Last year, at the height of the FOTA/FIA row, when Ferrari threatened to walk away from F1, the Italian team made its feelings quite clear claiming that some of the new teams entering F1 would make motor sport's blue ribband would reduce the series to resembling something more akin to GP3.

Attending the penultimate day of pre-season testing at Barcelona, however, Branson was having none of it and hit back at the Maranello outfit.

"I think that it's a bit sad to see Ferrari carrying on with those kinds of words," he told reporters. "Formula One needs new teams. Ferrari already won the battle to make sure that new teams are shackled," he added, referring to the battle with the FIA over the proposed budget cap. "I mean we have built a new car from scratch and are going to have exactly the same practice time as Brawn, Ferrari or any of the other teams who have had years and years and years to get it right. But we're not complaining about it, we're happy to go along with it."

Referring to last year's row, he added: "I think it was a pity that they were resistant to the budget cap and I think it is foolish actually. I think the one thing the Virgin team will prove is that you can have a really good racing team, running very fast, within a very tight budget. There is no need to do massively expensive wind tunnel testing, or all the other things that they do to get the extra second or two.

"Our presence will make them look better for a year or two until we catch them up," he continued. "But ultimately I think that the new teams will give Ferrari a run for their money. And I think it will make the sport more exciting, particularly as budgets come down to more realistic levels."

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