Branson Barcelona Interview

Virgin Racing’s principal owner Richard Branson has come out firing and dismissed Ferrari’s recent attack on the participation of the new teams in the 2010 championship.

A column on the official Ferrari website attacked the mandate pushed by then-FIA President Max Mosley to introduce new teams into the sport, and likened it to a “holy war” against the manufacturers. With the departures of BMW and Toyota at the end of the 2009 season, coupled with the struggles being evidenced by Campos and USF1, Ferrari questioned if such change was beneficial for the sport.

Branson’s Virgin Racing team is one of the four new teams signed to challenge in this year’s championship, and was very disappointed at Ferrari’s stance – especially given that Ferrari was one of the established teams that blocked the budget cap rules that were touted to help the new teams be more competitive in the championship.

"I think that it is a bit sad to see Ferrari carrying on with those kinds of words," Branson told reports during a visit he made to Barcelona for the final pre-season test session.

"F1 needs new teams, and Ferrari won the battle of making sure the new teams were shackled. For testing, we built a new car and we are going to have to have exactly the same amount of practice time as Brawn or Ferrari or the others, who have had years and years and years to get their cars to a certain stage.

"We are not complaining about it, and we are happy to go on with it, but Ferrari should be welcoming new teams because they [the new teams] make the sport much more exciting. And we will make them look better for a year or two until we catch them up. Ultimately, I think the new teams will give Ferrari a run for their money and I think will make the sport more exciting – particularly as the budgets come down to more realistic levels.

"I think it was a pity that they were resistant [the the budget cap proposal] and I think it is foolish actually," he continued. "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."

"By the start of the season I think the gap between the new teams and the old teams will be less. Give it a year or two – you cannot just build a new team from scratch and immediately start beating Ferrari that has spent £400 million on a car – whereas Virgin has spent less than £40 million.

"That is the budget that all the teams were meant to spend this year but then at the last minute changed the rules to spend the same kinds of monies that they have been spending for years. So, the budgets are a lot less but they are going to be tremendous cars. There will be a race among the new owners and then in time the new owners will start picking off some of the established teams.

"If this year we can beat the other new teams that will be a great start. If we can take one or two of the established teams occasionally that will be fun, and then next year we will go a little bit better and start moving forward.

"Once the budgets for the established teams comes down to the £40 million that Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA have said they must come down to – then we will see a much more equal playing field."

Got that, Ferrari?

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.