• 2010 News

Virgin confirms Manor deal

ESPNF1 Staff
December 15, 2009 « Ferrari won't stop Schumacher comeback | »
Branson looking to make an impact in F1 © Sutton Images

Virgin has confirmed its investment in the Manor team and announced Lucas di Grassi will partner Timo Glock next season.

Virgin Racing is the rebranded Manor Grand Prix team following an investment by Sir Richard Branson's company. Glock was signed several weeks ago and the final piece of the jigsaw was put in place at a press conference in London on Tuesday.

Di Grassi tested for Renault in Jerez recently, but has opted to commit to the newly-formed Virgin Racing. He arrives at the team after four seasons in GP2, where he finished second in 2007 to Glock.

Branson has been a long-term observer of Formula One, having worked with Brawn GP, and he is relishing the prospect of running a team in its own right.

"Our first year in F1 (with Brawn GP) was tremendous for the Virgin brand, so why not go in again with a new team from scratch?" Branson said. "If you look at the history of Virgin we've loved supporting technical breakthroughs, great engineers, and there's something like 120 engineers working away on this project."

Virgin Racing is one of four new teams on the 13-strong grid for 2010 and will be operating on the smallest budget of under £40 million.

Commenting on the slogan 'a new team for a new era', Branson said: "The new era is seeing the costs of entry come down. This team will be the lowest-budget team in Formula One. It will run under the £40 million per year that was being set by Formula One.

"But money's not everything. They are determined to prove that via engineering prowess, great drivers and a great affinity with the public they can do well."

When asked by ESPNF1 to respond to comments from Lotus boss Tony Fernandes - who recently joked that if his team didn't beat Virgin he would retire and kill himself - Branson offered up a dare.

"I like Tony a lot so I hope he doesn't have to kill himself, but at the same time I'd obviously like to beat him so maybe we should think of a different challenge," said Branson.

"He has an airline and we have an airline, so if we beat him he can come and work on our airline as a Virgin stewardess - which will save him having to kill himself and we'll make sure the stewardess outfit is perfect for him. I suspect if he beats us he might ask me to reciprocate, I'll have to check out how fetching his stewardess outfits are, but I'd be game to do it."

Manor boss John Booth will be in charge of the team and is aware he faces no easy task in putting out a competitive car.

"I've been asking the question all night as to how we managed to arrive here," Booth said. "But the budget restrictions have allowed us to get involved, and at the moment I'm on cloud nine.

"But we're the new kids on the block and we need to earn our place on the grid."

Technical director Nick Wirth said the new car would run for the first time in late January at Silverstone and revealed the team was already ahead of some its rivals in the design process, having passed a number of the FIA's mandatory crash tests.

The team also named GP2 race winners Alvaro Parente and Luiz Razia as its test drivers for 2010.