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Virgin, Danica Patrick and more
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Virgin, Danica Patrick and more
Posted By:   |  18 Feb 2009   |  5:15 pm GMT  |  9 comments

I suggested on Monday that Virgin might be the ones negotiating with Honda and I see now that Honda has confirmed it. Already there have been some good jokes, like “I hope they are faster than their broadband!” But there is no doubt that Virgin would be a huge asset to F1 if it happened.

The backstory here appears to involve Adrian Reynard, who knows Sir Richard Branson well, apparently and who set the BAR Honda team up in the first place before being eased out of the picture. Like David Richards, who also ran the team, he has some scores to settle and some unfinished business there. Isn’t it amazing how powerful men cannot let something lie? It’s like an episode of Dallas.

Anyway, I imagine that Virgin would only be interested if the costs really do come down to £50 million per year, as the FIA has been suggesting lately. They will have done extensive research on the return on investment you get from F1, the media value of screen time etc and would calculate that if the costs of competing were at that kind of level, you are looking at around £10 million as the cost of your sponsorship. This is probably affordable for them and they would get ten times that value back in brand exposure, so it’s a no-brainer if they plan some global initiative like a bio-fuel or some airline related activity or something. The catch is that the rules for 2010 haven’t been done yet and there is no guarantee that the costs will come down to that level.

I said in my Hope for Honda post, a couple of weeks ago that the £50 million package could some soon enough to save the team, but look at the teams which have gone down waiting in vain for F1 to become affordable, like Super Aguri for example. It may not happen.

I was phoned by TalkSport radio today asking me to talk about Danica Patrick and the possibility of her racing for the proposed USF1 team. It’s certainly a story everyone wants to know about. A woman driver would be great for F1 if she were good enough and Danica has won in IRL, beating Dan Wheldon, who was a contemporary of Jenson Button and others. Of course if Danica was good enough she would probably have been in F1 already, but why shouldn’t she get a second chance? Honda was looking seriously at testing her a few years back, I remember talking to Nick Fry about it. But it didn’t come off.

I know my old mentor Murray Walker has always been dismissive of the idea of women drivers in F1, but I’m all for it – it’s the last great barrier to be broken down. I don’t think Danica would be the first woman to win an F1 race, nor even to get a podium, but she might well open the door for other women who could break down that barrier.

USF1 is another idea which depends on the £50 million budget being possible and competitive. It is unlikely to happen without it. This is a start up, as far as I can see it, not based on an existing team and therefore not eligible for the TV money to start with. It will take pretty huge investment to get started.

The man behind it, my journalistic colleague Peter Windsor, has made a few comments on the story lately and there will be an announcement next week. The problem is that F1 has moved away from the US in the last few years, rather than the other way around. We don’t even have a race in Canada, for goodness sake!

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9 Comments
  1. rpaco says:

    Remember Divina Gallicia, she never got far. But shirley (no don’t call me surely) the main thing is that women do not want to spend hours every day lying on their sides with weighted helmets on building up their neck muscles.

    Adrian Reynard is synonymous with Ron and Lura Taurinac (RALT)
    from back in the good old days when between them they made a high percentage of all the single seaters in the UK and indeed the world . So Mr Fry should start buying body armour.

  2. john g says:

    the lack of US and Canadian GP is a reason why we need USF1 to happen, rather than a problem. It was a completely idiotic move by bernie to lose those two massive GP’s.

    i’m not fussed either way about a new US GP team (to be honest i just can’t see them being competitive) but if it takes F1 back to north america then i’m all for it.

    and i’m very keen on seeing ms patrick in the pitlane too – i can’t see any reason that a woman can not be competitive in F1. from the physical point of view, sebastian vettel said about this last year, that he thinks women could compete, and that he wasn’t exactly a bear!! of course, other comments like jenson buttons, about mechanics getting distracted aren’t going to do much to make women drivers any more than a joke. if she’s competitive, and not just a gimmick, it would give a massive boost to F1, probably more than lewis!

    i think scott speed was quite under-rated too and got a lot better towards the end of his campaign, maybe we’ll see him back (i guess villeneuve doesn’t have that much interest anymore…)

  3. mattanddebz says:

    The idea of a female driver in F1 is a touchy subject. The last time Danica Patrick was linked with a possible F1 test the media went crazy over the idea. Almost turning it into a novelty. The notion that there definitely should be a female driver in F1 on the basis that it’s a totally male orientated sport at present.

    That isn’t a good reason to have a female driver in F1. A good reason would be if Danica Patrick was better than other drivers from other formulas and deserved the drive. I hope one day a female driver does get into F1 but for the right reasons.

    As for Virgin entering F1. It makes total sense. Virgin is a great global brand but they’d need to be in it for the long term. Lets hope they can make a go of it. If they do 2009 is likely to be a tough year at the back of the grid for them!

  4. Mike Ellison says:

    I still can’t see Virgin as team owner. Sponsor, yes, but what’s the benefit to them of getting involved in the mucky side of things? If you sponsor a team that’s not winning it can be seen as something positive – you are helping a team go racing. It isn’t nearly as bad for your image as _being_ that team that’s not winning. With the change of engines the car is a wild-card that might even benefit from the change but I’d be very surprised to see it as a regular contender for race wins.

  5. Jon says:

    “I know my old mentor Murray Walker has always been dismissive of the idea of women drivers in F1, but I’m all for it – it’s the last great barrier to be broken down. I don’t think Danica would be the first woman to win an F1 race, nor even to get a podium, but she might well open the door for other women who could break down that barrier.”

    That’s exactly how I feel about it.

  6. F1 Boston Fan says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Danica Patrick, and I’m from the United States. I don’t like how she uses the fact that she’s a woman to get more press. Compare her to Hillary Clinton, who rarely spoke about being a woman; “I don’t want to be the first woman president; I want to be the president, and I just happen to be a woman.”

    I also highly doubt that Danica has the skills for F1. She won one race, it was a bit of a fluke, and now everyone believes she should be in F1. I believe that people should only be judged on their qualifications, and if Danica is chosen for F1 it will be for no other reason than her gender. If anything, that would be worse for F1.

  7. Darren M says:

    James, in your article on simulators the other day, you acknowledged that it was important that the most talented drivers ended up in F1. Do you include Danica Patrick in this elite list? There are plenty of drivers far more deserving of a seat in F1, even in America. She would be getting a place in F1 on gender alone. She is not talented enough, simple as that.

    And no, I’m not sexist, I imagine there are some women out there who are good enough for F1, but I doubt that seeing Danica Patrick trundle round at the back will inspire them to get into motorsport.

  8. L Dalton says:

    As I mentioned in a post regarding modern drivers, Danica Patrick is an American racing schooled driver who can race wheel to wheel but will lack the ultimate pace required for F1, plus she is not that strong a force in the IRL anyway.

  9. Roto says:

    We need more people like showman Richard Branson (Sir) and global brands like Virgin to bring excitement to F1. He surrounds himself with attractive women, is not afraid of taking risks and is passionate enough about his ventures that he just might be able to make the team competitive again. Otherwise the old BAR team will go off into obscurity.

    Would you rather have them be rescued by someone like Prince Malik ado Ibrahim? Remember the Nigerian who was briefly involved in F1 in the 1990s as a 20% owner of the Arrows F1 team before BAR? Malik never came up with the money needed and disappeared from the scene soon afterwards, causing Arrows to fold.

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