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Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 12:26 UK

Virgin set to end Brawn link-up

Richard Branson with Brawn GP
Branson joined forces with Brawn GP before the Australian Grand Prix

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson says his company are unlikely to sponsor Formula 1 team Brawn GP next season because it will be too expensive.

Virgin helped Brawn GP get off the ground when they formed after Honda pulled out of F1 in December 2008.

But the team's success is set to see their sponsorship rates rise.

"I suspect next year the price will be astronomical and we may have to look somewhere else with a smaller team," Branson told Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek.

Brawn GP's Jenson Button currently leads the drivers' standings, while the team are also top of the constructors' championship ahead of Sunday's British GP.

As a result, Ross Brawn's outfit has become a more attractive proposition for sponsorship, although Branson says his company have earned the benefit they wanted from the partnership.

"We have most likely got the mileage we needed from it," he added. "Their [Brawn GP's] value has gone from next to nothing to £50m a year and we're delighted for them."

F1 Mole

With the budget-cap row in F1 reaching crisis point this week after eight leading teams - including Brawn - announced plans for a breakaway series, sponsorship is a key issue as teams and investors alike wait to see what form of competition goes ahead in 2010.

Branson called for "sense to prevail" and the sport to remain unified as the opposing sides seek a way forward.

"I think it would be a great pity [for them to split]," he said. "Both sides need to sit down and sense needs to prevail.

"There are good arguments on both sides. Certainly the cost base of Formula 1 needs to be reduced and most of the teams seem to agree to that.

"The difference between the two sides needs to be sorted out."

If a split does happen and a rival championship established, Brawn admits his team will need financial support from their cash-rich rivals to thrive.

"There has to be a structure which supports the small teams," said the team chief, whose outfit have no funding in place for 2010.

"I'm confident a system will be in place to provide the funding that teams like mine will need."

Brawn dismissed concern that a new championship made of teams from the Formula One Teams Association (Fota) could not match the financial pull of the historic Formula 1 brand.

"I think the Fota teams are confident that their sponsors will follow them into this championship," he said Brawn.

"They've had discussions with their sponsors and a lot of people see this as a new and exciting opportunity to re-shape Formula One."

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see also
Branson makes offer to Brawn GP
26 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Virgin to sponsor Brawn F1 team
28 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Global crisis ends Honda F1 era
05 Dec 08 |  Formula 1
David Coulthard column
20 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
FIA to sue over breakaway attempt
19 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Formula 1 is 'finished' - Alonso
19 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Carmakers in F1 breakaway warning
12 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
F1 teams granted entry for 2010
12 Jun 09 |  Formula 1

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