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Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:37 UK

Branson aims for 17m cash windfall for top-10 finish

Lucas di Grassi in a spin at the Canadian GP
Virgin Racing's Lucas di Grassi takes a detour during the Canadian GP weekend

Virgin Racing owner Sir Richard Branson has set his sights on a top-10 finish - worth £17m - for his team in the 2010 world championship.

Virgin are battling for 10th place with Lotus and Hispania Racing, the other two new teams in Formula 1 this season.

"The more times we can get the two cars finishing then that would be great," said Branson. "If we can get a point or two, then even better."

Teams finishing in the bottom two of the table will not get the windfall.

After eight races this season, Virgin are holding the wooden spoon in the points table.

Points are scored down to 10th place in each race, and neither Virgin, Lotus nor Hispania Racing have achieved such a result this season.

In the event of a tie, a team's best result - and the number of times that result has been achieved - takes precedence.

Whereas I said I wouldn't mind about 10th place, I've suddenly taken a big interest
Sir Richard Branson

Lotus, therefore, hold 10th place due to Heikki Kovalainen's 13th position in the Australian Grand Prix, while Hispania Racing are 11th by the virtue of Karun Chandhok's two 14th places in Australia and Monaco, and Virgin are bottom thanks to Lucas di Grassi's single 14th in Malaysia.

The three teams are therefore extremely close, and a 12th-place finish for either Virgin driver - di Grassi or Timo Glock - would vault the team into the top 10.

There is a strong chance that the destiny of the money for 10th place could rest on one of the teams picking up an unexpectedly good finish in a race with a high number of retirements.

When informed of the potential prize money on offer by team chief executive officer Graeme Lowdon, Sir Richard Branson said: "There's some money? You never told me that. It does make a difference.

"Whereas I said I wouldn't mind about 10th place, I've suddenly taken a big interest."

Lowdon added: "It [the prize-money formula] is an innovative structure, and if you do well on the track then you get very well rewarded."


The windfall would make an enormous difference to any of F1's three new teams, which have all been a long way off the pace in 2010. All need to set in place strong funding to allow them to develop to the point where they can rival the nine established teams.

Branson also has a personal reason for wanting to beat Lotus, whose principal is fellow airline boss Tony Fernandes.

The two have a bet that whoever's team finishes lower in this year's F1 points table will have to dress as an air stewardess and fly on the winner's airline - Branson's Virgin Atlantic or Fernandes's AirAsia.

"I need to make the rules clear so we don't have too big a dispute," joked Branson.

"One year ago we only got our licence, so this racing company was a piece of paper back then.

"We then had to scramble to find the people and build the car, and I think the team has since done well."

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see also
Virgin to stick with F1 - Branson
15 May 10 |  Formula 1
F1 drivers' houses - Lucas Di Grassi
29 May 10 |  Formula 1
Volcano delay hits Virgin's plans
03 May 10 |  Formula 1
Virgin's F1 challenger unveiled
03 Feb 10 |  Formula 1
Virgin on an F1 team
16 Dec 09 |  Formula 1

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