Exclusive Branson Q&A: more Brawn-Virgin announcements to come 28 Mar 2009
The Virgin branding was hardly on the car when Sir Richard Branson rolled into the Melbourne paddock. And he could not have picked a better moment to get involved with Formula One - and in particular the Brawn team, who promptly outclassed the rest of the field in front of his very eyes. No wonder there was a big smile on Bransons face, as the reluctant bride was finally married off
Q: What brought you to Formula One in the first place?
Sir Richard Branson: I have been friends with Bernie (Ecclestone) and known him for many years. He has tried to tempt us in and we have been a reluctant bride up until now. When Honda decided to step out of Formula One there have been some brilliant engineers led by Ross Brawn who looked like being out of work. So we decided to see whether we could help him to save the team and tie up and work together. It appears that we have chosen a good time to enter into this relationship, and I am glad that I have resisted Bernie in the past, as timing is everything in life.
Q: Was it ever the idea to take over the team, and be owner rather than sponsor?
RB: I would suggest you watch this space, as we will have further announcements to make in three weeks from now. The plan is to work closer together in the years to come.
Q: It was your first day as a sponsor in Formula One and it was a glorious one. How does that feel?
RB: I will most likely wake up in a few minutes and realize that I had this great dream. My life seems to be under a lucky star. But Sunday is the important day and we will see what happens then, even though the odds look very good to have a chance to score a lot of points. So yes, the season has started very well for us.
Q: What do you want Virgin to represent in the Formula One paddock?
RB: Formula One has lost some brands, and Virgin is definitely a sexy, fun and rock n roll brand. Virgin has brought you the Rolling Stones and the Sex Pistols. We plan to thoroughly enjoy our involvement in Formula One and bring some extra life to it and do things in the Virgin way. We plan to be innovative, and I want to pursue Bernie and Max (Mosley) not only to pioneer great engineering, but also pioneer clean fuels. We have been developing a clean fuel for Formula One, which works, and hope to introduce it to Formula One. As the global warming gets worse, Formula One can show that it is pioneering green fuels. We also would be delighted to help Bernie in trying to reduce the costs, to try to encourage more brands to join Formula One to keep it exciting.
Q: Is there also an entertainment aspect?
RB: Yes, for sure. We have a massive music festival taking place tonight in Sydney with a hundred thousand people going. Maybe next year we can bring the music festival to Melbourne and right here where we all are now. We are from a music background, and for sure we can bring more entertainment to Formula One.
Q: Obviously your dangerous days are over. Is Formula One your new adventure?
RB: I can assure you that I wont be getting into one of those cars. The last time I got into a racing car I was so far last that I hoped that the crowd thought that I was first. But I will be a voyeur and watch the mighty Jenson and Rubens do their bit. Maybe Ill pursue some of them to come into space with me. Bernie should come into space with me, as I came to his Formula One.
Q: Can you tell us how big your involvement is in Brawn GP?
RB: It is certainly enough to help the team, but not enough to break our back.