Branson hints at bigger deal with Brawn


Still on a high following a sensational 1-2 in Melbourne, Virgin boss Richard Branson has revealed that his company could increase the size of its commercial partnership with Brawn GP.

Only a few weeks ago, with the future of the Brackley team still uncertain, Branson was linked with a buy-out of the former Honda F1 Team, however, hopes were dashed when the English entrepreneur admitted that while interested in entering F1, he would only do so when the sport had a more environmental image and when financial conditions were more conducive to making money from the sport as opposed to simply throwing money at it.

With many under the clear impression that this meant Branson was turning his back on the sport, there was genuine surprise when rumours surfaced last week of a commercial deal between the Virgin Group and the Brackley team.

The sponsorship deal was confirmed on Saturday morning, just hours before Branson witnessed Jenson Button and Ruben Barrichello claiming the front row of the grid.

Today, in the wake of the team's sensational win, Branson admitted that the initial sponsorship deal - said to be worth around $250,000 a race - could be the first step in a bigger partnership with the team, hinting that his company could be looking at a "substantial sponsorship" deal.

"It's a case of watch this space, I think," he told BBC Sport. "They've certainly got me addicted so it'd be a good time to sit me down and have a word about upping my interest."

Never one to stifle his emotions, Branson was beaming following a historic 1-2.

"It was just a magnificent GP," he said, "a brilliant showing from our engineer Brawn - he was the person we were really investing in - and two great drivers who delivered the goods. It's a great start to the season.

"At the moment we're just sponsors," he continued. "One day, Virgin might own a team and name it after itself. In the meantime, we'll have talks. I'm sure if Brawn GP keep plying me with champagne and putting gorgeous Virgin girls either side of me, you never know!

"But on a serious note they deserve supporting. This car only six weeks ago never looked capable of racing. All the people working for Honda were going to be out of work and we had no way of knowing how great the car would be. It's great to be part of the team rescuing that. We hope Virgin will be part of it going forward."

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Published: 29/03/2009
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