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F1 NEWS 

Branson still committed to Formula 1

Richard Branson Richard Branson says he is still fully committed to his involvement in Formula 1, despite Virgin Racing's difficult start to the season.

With the outfit having not made the step forward in pace that it expected this season, and parting company with technical chief Nick Wirth after the Monaco Grand Prix, there had been speculation that Branson could scale back his involvement to leave the way clear for a takeover by Marussia.

However, speaking in Montreal, Branson made it clear that F1 was still an important part of his Virgin company's portfolio.

When asked by AUTOSPORT if he was as committed as ever to being in F1, Branson said: "Yes, I thoroughly enjoy Virgin's involvement with the team and the sport, and hope it will be for a while.

"This isn't my team, we're effectively a sponsor, but for as long as we're helpful to Marussia and the team then we will stay involved."

He added: "We're not an auto builder, but having Virgin on the car is great for all the Virgin companies. I watched the Monaco Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago and we were getting great coverage, so we're still very happy."

Branson welcomed the fact that Virgin Racing had shown it willingness to react to its performance situation by splitting with Wirth, and said he was excited by future technical plans that Pat Symonds is putting in place.

"Reliability has been much better [this season], but everybody accepts that performance needs to improve. The team have made tough decisions, and they've one or two quite exciting things they've told me about - which I can't talk about - but will hopefully see them go up the grid over the next year or two.

"Marussia are fantastic owners, they've the kind of deep pockets the team need, and they're very committed to it. I think going forward, there's only one direction they can go."

Speaking about the decision to part company with Wirth, Branson said: "I think when we first got involved there was talk of the FIA getting rid of wind tunnelling and getting costs right down. I think a lot of that push to get costs down seems to have gone by the wayside somewhat.

"So, I think one of the tough decisions our new chief executive has had to make is on the technical side. I think it was the right decision and from what he has confidentially told me he has some exciting plans ahead on that front. If something is not working it cannot carry on indefinitely."

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