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Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 10:28 UK

Branson coy on Virgin F1 future

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

Sir Richard Branson says he will decide the future of his Virgin brand in Formula 1 after the final race of the season next month.

Virgin has this season sponsored Brawn, who won the drivers' and constructors' titles in Brazil on Sunday.

But it is widely believed within F1 that Virgin has already done a deal to become the title sponsor of the new Manor team in 2010.

Branson told 5 Live he was "absolutely delighted to get involved" with Brawn.

Brawn insiders have told BBC Sport that the team already have a title sponsorship deal for 2010 but would not reveal the identity of the company involved.

Branson joined forces with the Ross Brawn-led team just before March's season opener in Australia.

But with Brawn's Jenson Button winning the drivers' championship, the team is likely to ask for more money.

"We will make a decision after Abu Dhabi, which is the final race of the season," Branson told BBC Radio 5 live.

The Brawn team raced as Honda last season but secured their survival only at the beginning of March following Honda's decision to quit F1 because of the global financial crisis.

ANDREW BENSON ON BRAWN GP

As well as the partnership with Virgin, Brawn GP also attracted sponsorship on a race-by-race basis, breaking away from the tradition of season-long deals.

Their car ran for the first time only in March but quickly emerged as the fastest in F1.

"We were absolutely delighted to get involved with them when they didn't have any money before the Melbourne race," added Branson.

"It enabled them to prove that they had a great car and great drivers and they've obviously gone on to fantastic things.

"It was the perfect relationship. Virgin loves to support an underdog but they are now one of the most expensive teams out there and certainly not underdogs any more.

"But we will make an announcement in the next month but at the moment we just want to celebrate a magnificent season with the Brawn team, Jenson and Rubens Barrichello, who did fantastically also."

Branson admitted to being totally surprised at Brawn's success this season, and recalled how he flew to Australia to put Virgin stickers on the car before the opening race of the 2009 campaign.

"I don't think in our wildest dreams we thought this would happen. I knew they had a good car, as I happened to know one of the test drivers," explained Branson.

"But when I got on a plane to Melbourne with some Virgin stickers in my bag, having just shaken hands and given them some money, the last thing I expected was a first and second in the championship race."

I think one thing people have overlooked is the fact that Honda wrote out a cheque for £120m so the team didn't go bust

Sir Richard Branson

Branson also felt that Honda should take some of the credit for Brawn's success, despite their decision to pull out of F1 at the start of the season.

"I think one thing people have overlooked is the fact that Honda wrote out a cheque for £120m so the team didn't go bust," stated Branson.

"There are many people who would have just pulled out and saved that money and they have got no credit for that.

"If you turn the clock back 12 months then it was a horror story for the car industry and really good car makers like Honda and they had to make a tough decision.

"But they developed the car and they deserve some credit but I doubt they'll get a lot despite behaving in a very gentlemanly way."



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see also
Brawn GP
02 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Button seeks place in F1 history
20 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Jenson Button news conference
20 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Branson makes offer to Brawn GP
26 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Virgin to sponsor Brawn F1 team
28 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Brawn's F1 history
12 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Virgin Galactic: The logical next step
27 Sep 04 |  Science & Environment


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