Brackley, Sunday: With rumours continually surfacing over a bid by Virgin boss Richard Branson to buy out The Team Formerly Known As Honda in time for March’s Australian Grand Prix, the bearded entrepreneur has dropped the first hints that he has no interest in participating in Formula One until the sport makes several changes.
Branson, whose Virgin Group is involved in record production, rail travel, soft drink manufacture, eccentrically ballooning around the world, telecommunications, air travel, and most recently taking rich people into space and for some reason bringing them back down again, told journalists that he was only interested in involving his brand in F1 if the sport addressed its “faults.”
Branson has long been an advocate of environmental awareness, so a requirement for F1 cars to use clean fuels and operate efficiently is expected. However, the ex-hippie also suggested that people discussing Formula One should be banned from punning on his team’s name should they enter the sport.
“It’s all too easy to imagine, isn’t it?” Branson asked rhetorically. “You can see it now – ‘The Virgin is leaking fluids everywhere’ – ‘The elegantly crafted rear of the Virgin is hanging out’ – ‘The Virgin scores for the first time.’ It would be abysmal. So that’s why we’re politely asking the FIA to legislate against these kinds of puns before we can even consider getting involved in Formula One.”
Jenson Button in particular will be hoping that these problems can be sorted out as soon as possible, as he plans on entering the Virgin very shortly in order to gain maximum testing time before the 2009 season opener in Australia. Brazilian ace Bruno Senna is widely expected to have a go soon afterwards.
The Virgin Group have been seen in Formula One before, with subsidiary Virgin Mobile sponsoring Jordan for a short period a few years ago. But on that occasion, with the Virgin people pulling out so soon, it can’t have been very good.