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Virgin enters F1 with clean-fuel target

Jenson Button, Richard Branson, Rubens Barrichello and Ross BrawnBrawn GP has confirmed a 'substantial' sponsorship deal with the Virgin Group - in a move that could lead to a clean-fuel revolution in Formula 1.

As AUTOSPORT predicted earlier this weekend, Virgin Group has become the first major sponsor of the Brawn GP team. It is not a title sponsorship deal and the team's official name will remain unchanged for now.

The tie-up was announced in a joint press conference with team principal Ross Brawn and Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson in the paddock at Albert Park on Saturday morning.

Branson, who had been linked with a takeover of the former Honda team recently, said that moves to cut costs in the sport and a push by the American Gevo company, in which Virgin is investing, to come up with a clean fuel for the sport.

"I am very, very excited to be here today," said Branson, who had flown direct from London after agreeing the deal. "A few weeks ago I said that there were two preconditions for us to get involved with F1.

"One was that the costs of F1 should come down. It was just too expensive to get enough new entrants into the sport, and the second one was that F1 should be spear-heading a clean-fuel revolution.

"As you know, Bernie Ecclestone has announced that new entrants will be able to get into F1 at a much lower cost and that will encourage a lot of new companies to get involved in the sport and make it much more exciting. And the second was about clean fuels.

"We have invested in a company called Gevo, quite a considerable sum of money. All the profits that we make from our dirty industries, our airlines, from our train companies are invested in trying to come up with a clean fuel.

"One of the tasks that Gevo have had is to see if they can come up with a fuel for F1, maybe called the Virgin Fuel, that is clean, that doesn't emit any carbon and can perform as well as the dirty fuels that are used in cars to date.

"I am delighted to say that they have come up with such a fuel and over the next few months we will be trying to talk to F1, talk to the various car companies and see if we can have this fuel introduced as the fuel that F1 uses, so this sport goes from a slightly polluting sport to a clean sport.

"And I look forward to working with people in the sport to try and change the sport. Obviously we are trying to work to create a clean fuel for our airplanes so when people go to the sports [events] they can go without any feeling of guilt whatsoever. It is great to be here, I am really looking forward to the races ahead."

The Brawn BGP001 cars will already carry Virgin branding in Australia and Brawn himself said that Branson would be able to influence F1's future better as a sponsor than from the outside.

"Virgin Group has a major involvement in many industries which have synergies with our work here in F1," said Brawn. "The efforts that the sport is making, led by the FIA, to improve the environmental credentials of F1 are extremely important for our society and our objective for our sport.

"Richard and the Virgin Group are well aligned with our plans for the future. I know Richard shares our view that you have can have a much greater influence working on the inside making positive changes, and looking forward together very closely with him and Virgin over the coming months."

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