Virgin Group owner Sir Richard Branson has pledged to continue his financial support of the F1 team bearing his company’s name in the 2011 season, and is willing to cede some real estate on the cars’ advertising space if the outfit is successful in bringing on more sponsorship next year.
Having re-entered Formula 1 as a sponsor last year with the championship-winning Brawn GP outfit – with the billionaire describing the exposure gained that year as “just ridiculously lucky” – Branson then set about lending his company’s name to supporting Manor Motorsport’s F1 operation as it made its debut in 2010.
Despite some early-season wobbles for the outfit – most notably an embarrassing design flaw that meant its original fuel tank was too small for its cars to finish the races – Branson has pledged that he will continue his support of the rookie squad, which lies last in the Constructors’ Championship standings behind fellow rookies Lotus and Hispania Racing.
“It’s been a fun season and we’ve still got to beat Lotus, and have a few more races to do it,” he said. “Nick Wirth [the team’s Technical Director] is back in the factory working on the car for next season, and I think we’ve made a good start anyway.”
While accepting that his empire would no doubt have less signage on next year’s car if a larger sponsorship portfolio was secured by the team for 2011, he added: “We obviously hope to be able to keep Virgin on the [rear wing] of the car.”
When asked to describe the outfit’s maiden season in F1, Branson was particularly pleased with the team’s competitiveness, in spite of the troubles it had endured along the way.
“We knew we were going to be the underdogs again, and we went into it with our eyes open and it is fun building a new team from scratch,” he said. “I think the team are delivering what they have promised on reliability and so on. The amount of money this team is spending is maybe £20 million less than Lotus. So to be almost matching them car for car is great, and our reliability has been better.”
[Original images via LAT]