Branson steps on the gas with F1 investment

Richard Branson's Virgin Group is sponsoring new Formula 1 team Brawn GP. Has he employed precision timing?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Branson is moving into the Formula One arena for the first time with a multi-million pound deal to sponsor the new team, which includes British driver Jenson Button.

In securing the deal, Branson may well have proved that he hasn't lost the knack for spotting golden PR opportunities: Brawn has yet to run its first F1 race, having been formed in a management buyout by Ross Brawn after Honda quit the sport in December; but it goes into this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix with Button being touted as the surprise favourite to win.

As such it's the perfect chance for Branson to grab some big-time global PR. Just think of the attention Lewis Hamilton got when he arrived on the scene two seasons back and almost scored a rookie success. This year, car trouble has left the golden boy languishing at the back of the pack in practice, and some have said it may be Button - and therefore Branson - filling the winning overalls instead.

Bernie Ecclestone, F1's commercial chief, said that Branson and Brawn reached a deal in the last few days, but that the size of Virgin's financial commitment has still to be worked out in detail. That's no surprise: Branson is always far more willing to proffer his brand than to actually dig into his pocket, often arguing that the brand name is such a draw in itself that he doesn't need to chip in. Whether that'll cut it in the big-money world of F1 remains to be seen.

Branson was previously a contender in the race to buy Brawn (when it was still Honda F1), before he dropped out saying F1 would need to be more cost-effective and use cleaner fuels to win his involvement. Which is pretty rich coming from a bloke who runs an airline. 



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