Posted on March 28, 2009
Behind the Virgin deal | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

I followed curiously as Sir Richard Branson, accompanied by two dolly birds in Virgin T shirts made their way from the swipe gates to the Brawn GP garage to announce the sponsorship deal.
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Branson knows a thing or two about getting publicity and this was an old-fashioned attention grab, which worked a treat. He was answering questions from Sky TV Italy, flashbulbs popping all around him. At one point he turned to one of the girls and said, “I think we’re doing rather well, don’t you?”

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The Brawn mechanics were still putting the stickers on the back-board for the press conference when the principals came out. It was all rather last minute and very rock and roll.

John Button, Jenson’s Dad was loving it all. He pointed to the Virgin logo on the wall, “Haven’t seen one of those for ages,” he quipped.

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Branson said that he is investing heavily in ‘clean’ fuels, which do not emit carbons. He says he has a fuel ready for F1 and is going to try to persuade the car companies and F1 in general to use it. Shell, Mobil and Total, who invest heavily in Ferrari, McLaren and Renault will be interested to hear that.

The stickers on the car are quite small, indicating that this is a toe in the water job Branson said however that it is potentially a two stage deal’. He’s talking to us later in more detail and we’ll find out if that means that he plans to take a shareholding in the team.

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  1.   1. Posted By: Colin
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 4:18 am 

    “The stickers on the car are quite small, indicating that this is a toe in the water job. Branson said however that it is potentially a ‘two stage deal’.”

    Pah! Dithering Virgin!

    Who do you think the other likely suitors are James, any rumours?

    PS. I watched final practice on the Official F1 site, and their server kept stopping due to overload. It’s much better than the new BBC live timing feed (no splits or times given by BBC.)

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  2.   2. Posted By: Michael C
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 5:40 am 

    James, enjoying your blog. But please get the science right. Fuels do not emit “Carbons” or even “carbon.” In fact, any fuel the cars burn will end up as carbon dioxide (and water) and the car will emit carbon. That the fuel comes from a “green source” makes no difference – in petrol, the carbon atoms comes from prehistoric carbon dioxide. in a “green fuel” the carbon atoms come from carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere now, fixated by plants.

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  3.   3. Posted By: Martin P
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 5:52 am 

    I don’t think Virgin is dithering. It doesn’t matter how small your stickers are if they’re the only ones on there. He’s secured maximum publicity for the smallest investment. As a marketeer Branson is an absolute master at spotting and squeezing every ounce of publicity from any situation. Plus where he really excels is in creating the opportunity in the first place. I suspect he had no intention whatsoever of buying the team, but entered the fray because it guarantees cheap column inches. Remember Concorde?

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  4.   4. Posted By: Ali
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 7:30 am 

    It’s hypocritical what Virgin Group is doing.

    They said earlier that Formula 1 must change in a bid to more green atmosphere and ruling-wise in order for Virgin to think about entering.

    But when they see interest and money, they just swallowed their own words. Did you see how Mr. Branson was celebrating the front row start? Just disgusting.

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  5.   5. Posted By: Shaun
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 8:49 am 

    And ‘bio-fuels’ are not as green as they seem. Turning large areas of land over to bio-fuel production either takes it out of food production or involves moving new land into production aka habitat destruction.

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  6.   6. Posted By: Steven
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 9:40 am 

    I haven’t seen Jenson’s Dad in a long time! Probably not since 2006!

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  7.   7. Posted By: Tom
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 1:49 pm 

    But since he said that, they’ve painted the edges of the tyres green. Makes all the difference.

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  8.   8. Posted By: Stephen Kellett
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 4:42 pm 

    Unless the bio fuel is manufactured by bacteria consuming waste etc. There are folks working on this.

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  9.   9. Posted By: rpaco
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 5:44 pm 

    Shaun: Unfortunately we are talking of 2 different things here: Due to my Bosch injector pump/system I can run on straight WVO, but mix with 20% fossil diesel to thin it.

    Proper Bio Diesel uses nasty chemicals, needs heat and has by-products. But for F1 it must be bio Ethanol based, again problems of food crops diverted, but apparently Brazil runs on bio Ethanol.

    BTW Didn’t Peugeot win leMans with a diesel?

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  10.   10. Posted By: Michel
        Date: March 28th, 2009 @ 6:40 pm 

    Brazil uses sugarcane ethanol, which is multiple times more efficient than corn ethanol (partly due to better climate) and the waste is used to generate energy for heating.

    The problem with US bio-ethanol is that it is pushed hard by the agricultural lobby (large commercial farms); they’re concerned mostly in increasing corn prices

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