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Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Saturday, 15 May 2010 14:02 UK

Sir Richard Branson says Virgin will be in F1 for years

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport in Monaco

Sir Richard Branson in Monaco
Branson was in Monaco to support his new F1 team

Sir Richard Branson insists Virgin's future is safe, despite Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone saying that one of the new teams may not finish the year.

Virgin's debut season has been beset by reliability problems and they have been about five seconds off the pace.

"I'm surprised Bernie said that," said Virgin boss Branson. "He might know something about the other new teams.

"But the Virgin team will go all the way to the end of the season and hopefully for many seasons to come."

Virgin's progress has been hindered by hydraulic, gearbox and engine problems as well as an embarrassing revelation that the team could not finish a race at full speed because their fuel tanks were too small, which has now been rectified.

We are planning to stick with it as long as they can get other sponsors on board as well

Sir Richard Branson

The team took a step forward at last week's Spanish Grand Prix as the team got two cars to the finish of a race for the first time. Their only previous finish was in Malaysia, the third race of the season, with Brazilian Lucas di Grassi.

Branson said he was hopeful Virgin could continue to edge closer to the established teams.

"We've got to bridge that gap," stated Branson. "It's a lot but is to be expected of a new team.

"There will be technical problems but even the teams that are spending £300m on their cars have technical problems.

"If the team continue the kind of progress they've made to date we'll be delighted and we'll continue to support it - and there's no reason why it shouldn't."

A Virgin car in Monaco
Virgin have struggled so far in their debut season

Branson backed last season's double championship-winners Brawn to the tune of £2.4m in 2009 but this year he signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Manor Motorsport, which saw the minnows take on the Virgin name.

The tycoon says he intends to continue backing the team, so long as it continues to attract new sponsors to share the costs.

"We are planning to stick with it as long as they can get other sponsors on board as well," added Branson.

"Although this team is running on less money than all the other teams it's still a lot of money and we want to spread it out among a number of people."

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see also
Volcano delay hits Virgin's plans
03 May 10 |  Formula 1

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