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Virgin comes over all Russian
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Nov 2010   |  9:41 am GMT  |  47 comments

Virgin Racing will be part owned by Russian specialist car maker Marussia, following a deal struck this week, which shows the growing Russian interest in the sport. The news follows on from the announcement that Russia will host a Grand Prix in Sochi starting in 2014 and that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin tested a Renault F1 car as a guest of team owner Gerard Lopez.


Like all Virgin’s sponsors, Marussia wants to plug into Virgin’s vast network of customers and communications channels. Marussia wants to go further than that, however. The intention is that its brand should appear in the Virgin team name, which means that along with the renaming of the current Lotus team and the Lotus Renault branding destined for the current Renault F1 team, there will be some new names on the grid next year. Sauber will also drop the BMW part of its name.

The deal was announced today at Yas Marina Circuit and according to the Financial Times, Marussia is buying part of the stake owned by LDC, the private equity arm of British bank Lloyds. The figure of €10 million has been suggested as LDC’s original investment. The other shareholders are Virgin, Manor Motorsport and Wirth Research.

Marussia is run by Nikolai Fomenko, who said that the deal would be “a powerful marketing stage for our new company. We want want it to be a symbol of pride, self-belief and inspiration for the people of Russia”. The road cars use Cosworth engines, as do Virgin Racing.

Yesterday Virgin announced that it had signed a new sponsor, Qnet, which sells a range of wellness and lifestyle products and services through an e-commerce platform.

Virgin has stuck to the intention of Max Mosley’s budget cap proposal, namely running the team on £40 million per season. The arrival of Marussia, which plans compete with Porsche and Aston Martin and to build 2,000 cars a year by 2014, is reminiscent of Spkyer, which bought the former Jordan team from Midland

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47 Comments
  1. Adrian says:

    “The arrival of Marussia, which plans compete with Porsche and Aston Martin and to build 2,000 cars a year by 2014, is reminiscent of Spkyer, which bought the former Jordan team from Midland”

    Let’s hope it’s more successful…!!

    1. Frenchie says:

      My thought exactly.

  2. jamie says:

    “by 2014, is reminiscent of Spkyer, which bought the former Jordan team from Midland” and we all know how well that went

    1. Janis1207 says:

      Oh yes :(
      Unfortunately Russian involvement tends to be quite volatile.
      Now when every Russian and his dog has seen Putin in a Renault F1 car, they know which way the wind blows. As soon as Putin will loose interest in F1, they will loose it too.
      So, let’s hope for a favorable wind!

  3. Declan says:

    Hold up! Are the F1 media getting ahead of themselves by assuming Lotus Racing is no longer and that they are going to bow to Group Lotus/Proton pressure by rebranding themselves next year?

    Lotus Racing CEO Riad Asmat just announced that they are reviving the historic black and gold colours for the livery for its 2011 car!

    Surely such a public announcement means that they are semi-confident of racing under the ‘Lotus’ name next year? Any backtracking now would be embarrassing – not to mention ’1Malaysia F1′ in B&G doesn’t quite have the same punch …

    1. Frenchie says:

      Peter Windsor made an excellent interview with David Hunt:
      http://www.theracedriver.com/2010/11/david-hunt-exclusive-on-team-lotus/
      It explains quite well the difference between Group and Team.

      James, do you have more news on the topic. Is there a possibility of Tony Fernandes getting the Team Lotus name rights only for Malaysian government to request for them be passed on to Group Lotus? Do you have anymore details on this story?

    2. S.J.M says:

      “Hold up! Are the F1 media getting ahead of themselves by assuming Lotus Racing is no longer and that they are going to bow to Group Lotus/Proton pressure by rebranding themselves next year?”

      No, Lotus Racing plans to use the name “Team Lotus” which the likes of Clark, Senna and Rindt raced for. The obtained the rights to use from David Hunt who kept the rights for “Team Lotus” after it dissolved. Sadly, Group Lotus dont want this to happen and are seeking ways to block this. Thats the brief of it, ts a little complicated affair.

  4. monktonnik says:

    Another reason why the new teams have largely been a success.

    They can offer a real worldwide marketing platform for a very reasonable investment. And a Russian sports car manufacturer using Cosworth engines is a great addition to the team and the sport.

    I know that many people are still derisive about the new teams, but I saw them in the flesh at Silverstone and I was very impressed indeed. They looked and sounded the part to me at any rate.

    Colin Chapman was a genius to see the potential boon that sponsorship can give both parties.

  5. Baktru says:

    Any insights as for the chances of D’Ambrosio scoring a seat for next year with Virgin? There’s quite a few rumours floating around Belgium on that. Belgian newspapers were giving him a good chance of being announced as a driver for next year today, but that clearly didn’t happen.

  6. JW says:

    Does that mean that Petrov gets sacked at Renault and moves next year to Virgin for di Grassi?

    1. Cody says:

      I would think that is somewhere around 90% likely.

  7. Galapago555 says:

    Fantastic banner, James. Looking forward for a screensaver with all previous ones.

    Off topic, but very exciting indeed: “Lotus Racing have announced that their cars will run in a black and gold colour scheme from the 2011 championship onwards.” Aboslutely appealing, those black and gold cars.

    http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2010/11/11506.html

    Btw… WHAT Lotus team??

    1. Andy C says:

      Just read that. Thanks for the link!

      I have a picture of me sitting in Nigel Mansells lotus, with him sitting on the side of the cockpit. That was what set me off with F1. I think it was his last year at Lotus and I’d have been about 6-7.

      It even mentions the ability for fans to submit ideas for the exact use of the colour scheme (details to be released soon). Its the current Lotus Racing team by the sounds of it.

      1. Henry says:

        It’s Tony Fernandes’ team lotus, not group lotus!

      2. Andy C says:

        Thats what I said…. the current team in F1.

      3. Stevie P says:

        The only problem is that the current Lotus may run in Gold n Black livery next season, but they won’t retain the Lotus name… clutching at straws me thinks by (current) Lotus, to keep a link to Lotus.

        Wolf’s were black with a smidgeon of Gold and I don’t recall them having the Lotus name. But my word the Lotus JPS’s through the 70′s and early 80′s looked sooooo good.

        A good call to get the fans involved with a design for the scheme though! :-)

      4. Stevie P says:

        And back on topic [sorry I got distracted by black n gold JPS cars in my head ;-)] it’s good to see the new teams displaying good sense in terms of sponsorship (Virgin) and contracts for “technology” (HRT and Lotus Racing) – it proves they are making the right moves to be here for next season and hopefully beyond :-)

  8. Mosq says:

    It’s reaaly weird and pleasure at the same time to see that f1 movement suddenly became so active here in russia. In general, autosport is dead here, – everybody who’s interested went racing in Europe… Hope this initiatives would really turn sponsors’ eyes onto racing

  9. DK says:

    Hi James, great banner for the season finale….wait a minute, you are missing one Redbull there. Now it’s all about individual driver, no more team :)

  10. Dan says:

    Best blog topic of the year!

    1. Henry says:

      hehe I second that! Fantastic title!

  11. Jo Torrent says:

    In Autosport today Virgin announced the installation of the 3rd largest computing facility in the world (the biggest in F1 or the quickest I shall say). It won’t help developing the 2011 challenger as it’s not ready yet.
    Mr Wirth confirmed the route taken by Virgin which put everything into CFD (which is absolutely wrong).

    Some might think that the other teams use WindTunnel instead but they don’t. They use both CFD and WindTunnels. By having the best CFD facility, Virgin won’t be able to make more accurate computations. All what a bigger facility offers is the ability to simulate bigger models and to compute faster but the accuracy of the computations is the same as the other teams.

    I understand that the leading CFD tool in the world is FLUENT. I don’t know whether all F1 teams use it (I need James’s input on this).

    What is stunning here is how stubborn is Nick Wirth. You have people as smart as the Neweys, Brawns, etc who during decades of experience in F1 noticed that CFD isn’t accurate and that they needed to cross check what CFD gave with WindTunnels. And here there’s Mr Wirth who comes and says that CFD is enough.

    It is not and far from it. CFD is a numerical simulation of aerodynamic phenomena. They consist in simulating the Fluid Dynamic equations (known as Navier Stokes equations). In numerical simulations, CFD are among the most complicated if not the most complicated. There are many cases where these equations are very hard if not impossible to simulate. In these cases, the results have nothing to do with reality.

    That’s why WindTunnels are essential. I’ll add that WindTunnels aren’t bulletproof either for many reasons. An obvious one is that the car used in a WindTunnel is half the size of the real one. And Fluid Dynamics are non linear physical phenomena which means that the result obtained with downsized models aren’t directly relevant to the full size model. Sometimes, it’s even irrelevant to the real size model. That’s why it requires all the know how and intelligence of the engineers to exploit these results.

    That’s one of the reasons why the updates brought to the track this year don’t work all the time and why track testing is the only reliable assessment of developments.

    I’m 100% sure that Wirth knows all this and I simply don’t understand why they are keeping this route. I thought it was money related but they are investing in the biggest CFD tool in F1.

    VIRGIN will dearly suffer in the upcoming years.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys says:

      “Mr Wirth confirmed the route taken by Virgin which put everything into CFD (which is absolutely wrong).”

      How, exactly? They’ve used CFD this year and they’ve kept up with Lotus fairly well. CFD is not the reason why Virgin are off the pace.

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        Lotus started development later than Virgin and stopped it long time before. Nonetheless, they’re still the fastest new team, just but still the fastest.

      2. Prisoner Monkeys says:

        Which would only really be a problem if Virgin was the only team three seconds off the pace. They’re not. They’ve developed a car that can, at least, keep up with the Lotuses despite Lotus using traditional techniques to develop the car. Lotus have had the upper hand all year, but Virgin have been out-qualifying them occasionally (mostly Glock) and besting them in practice. CFD is not a mistake – they’ve proven if can work.

    2. Marty McSuperfly says:

      A little bit of knowledge is dangerous, as the saying goes.
      Wirth has used a full CFD approach to designing race cars before (Acura LMS) and has won doing it. The problem with the same apporach in F1 is that its an open wheel format, and rotating tyres cause very, very, very complex air flows. With more computational power, hes basically hoping to more accurately model this.

      The reason (I think) he likes CFD is that it does tend to cost less than running a wind tunnel. Although without a proper LCA, its just a guess.

      Another factor to consider is that wind tunnels do one thing only, and thats force wind through a tunnel at high speed. they don’t tend to be great money making machines. A super computer (for want of a better term) is a little more flexible in what it can be used for or sub-contracted to work on.

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        The difference is how complicated is F1 and how tight are the rules. In F1 the devil is in the detail. You’ve only to look at the tiny modifications to the front wing endplates race after race to figure it out. Such a level of detail requires higher accuracy.

        I agree with you that the open wheel cars are much harder to simulate.

    3. Tony says:

      I think it’s probably the 3rd largest CFD computing facility in the world.

    4. Andy C says:

      I read that too Jo and I was impressed and concerned in the same way. I guess the thing is they need to do something different as they wont spend the sort of money that some of the bigger teams have in their budget.

      They could always use the dallara windtunnel (which must have been unused last year judging by the design of the hrt ;-)

      1. Jo Torrent says:

        There are many WindTunnels they can use part-time. Mercedes and Williams have 2 and by current rules, they can use only one and part-time moreover.

        Besides, the investment in the 3rd best computing facility in the world must have cost some money too, so the financial argument isn’t valid anymore.

        It’s funny that Wirth used to build Windtunnels himself (He built one for Prost team).

  12. michael grievson says:

    Perhaps petrov will get a drive if Renault drop him

  13. Andy C says:

    Good to see them secure their future for the medium term. With a full winter to prepare, and various tech linkups and development time, hopefully all three will be well placed to push on in 2011.

  14. Prisoner Monkeys says:

    I’m curious what Marussia are playing at here. Nikolai Fomenko said he wanted to enter a team by 2012, but at the time I figured he was just playing to the crowd with the annoucement of the Russian Grand Prix. I’ve been proven wrong if they’re buying into Virgin. But I don’t see Virgin as being a long-term arrangement. I know everyone likes to talk about their future as if it’s about to come to an inglorious end (though I can find no solid reason for this gossip), but I can’t see them buying Virgin. I do, however, have a theory:

    Group Lotus want to buy into Renault (or at least provide sponsorship), but it’s looking likely that Tony Fernandes will retain the right to the Lotus name (they are, after all, planning a black and gold livery next season). If that’s the case, you can bet Group Lotus won’t be buying into Renault any time soon because the entire point of buying in is to get their name out there. If they can’t use their name, there’s no point in entering. Even if they somehow make it work, the FIA will have something to say about it. They won’t allow two teams to run under the same or similar names (Red Bull/Toro Rosso get away with it because while they mean the same thing, their names sound totally different).

    So here’s my theory: Nikolai Fomenko has been kicking the idea of a Russian team around for a while now. I can’t imagine the Russians would have been too impressed when Alex Shnaider entered Midland under a Russian racing licence. My best friend is Russian and she likes it when I try to learn her language, but she’d hate me if I claimed to be Russian when I wasn’t. Anyway, I think Fomenko has been kicking the idea of a team around for a while now. He gets his brand’s name into Formula 1 sponsoring Virgin. Then he ups his involvement, buying into the team. People get used to seeing the Marussia name in the sport. Then he buys a team in its own right, and this is where Renault comes into it: I suspect Fomenko might have his eye on Renault. He forms an alliance with Gravity for 2012, buying Renault’s share of the team and then some. People are already familiar with the Marussia name, and hopefully by then the company will expand into the European road car market (truth be told, I kind of like the styling of the Marussia B2 … it lacks the poise of other cars, but it looks like the Audi R8′s evil twin). By then, the Marussia name will be well-known, with the road cars and racing cars working together as one cohesive unit.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      Marussia is already controlling the team and Virgin might even get out in a few years. Here’s a report by BBC

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/9178539.stm

      1. Prisoner Monkeys says:

        I’m guessing that Marussia are buying into Manor Grand Prix, with Virgin as title sponsor. After all, Virgin didn’t sumbit the entry bid; Manor did. Beardy Branson came on as title sponsor later on, but it was an open secret from the beginning.

      2. James Allen says:

        No, they are definitely buying part of LDC’s stake

  15. Bill Johnson says:

    I do just love a British turn of phrase – of course I did misread the title, hilariously…

  16. Jameson says:

    James,

    You may want to alter the title, as it’s quite the double entendre.

    It’s really interesting to see the sudden Russian involvement in Formula One this year. First Petrov with Renault, then Marussia with Virgin (as a sponsor), next Lada with Renault, the announcement of a Russian GP, and now Marussia as a team shareholder! What a jump from practically nothing, to a significant involvement in the series.

  17. Bec says:

    Russia’s version of Jeremy Clarkson, Nikolai Fomenko buys into Virgin.

    1. James Allen says:

      Crisp as a cos lettuce…

    2. Prisoner Monkeys says:

      A Russian version of Jeremy Clarkson. How could this *possibly* go wrong?

  18. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    This reminds of a classic 1980s TV advert:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJUUsvnAIiM

    If you’re over 35 or so, then you too will remember it….

    1. nta says:

      Did you notice how similar the car he uncovered is to the Mclaren F1 super car, well from the front at least??

  19. jonrob says:

    “along with the renaming of the current Lotus team and the Lotus Renault branding destined for the current Renault F1 team,”
    James, like Declan above, I feel that you either need to reveal some more of your inside knowledge here, or to back pedal somewhat.

    Unless the high court overturns any and all semblance of justice, there can be no doubt at all that Tony Fernandez owns the Team Lotus brand.

    It is the team lotus organisation that has kept alive the Lotus name in racing not Group lotus.

    If Tony is forced by the Malaysian government to give up his legally purchased right to race as Team Lotus then Renault (and the FIA) should be ashamed of themselves for associating with such a despicable bunch as Group Lotus.

    Let us also remember that the Lotus colours are green and yellow. Black and gold were the JPS (John Player Special) cigarette colours.
    To use them again now could indicate tobacco sponsorship, which of course is banned except for Ferrari.

  20. Mark Crooks says:

    I’m all for the CFD approach and I applaud Nick Wirth’s efforts.

    The one part of his process that I don’t understand is that he knows CFD works however he doesn’t know how well it works compared to the competition. So in order for him to gain an advantage over the competition he needs to get more CFD parts quicker onto the car than the other guys for his theory to work well.

    Yet I have not heard anything form him or his team on how quickly they can get parts manufactured and if they are working on improvements to the manufacturing process.

    If he isn’t then he could have the fastest computers in the world and they’d be pretty much useless.

  21. Brian says:

    James – Can you confirm what percentage of the team Marussia now own? It has been reported elsewhere that it has acquired a “controlling interest” and Fomenko has been reported as saying he wishes to turn it into a fully Russian F1 team (whatever that means).

    I would be disappointed if Virgin disappeared entirely as they have made a genuine and concerted effort to really connect with their fans this year.

  22. jose arellano says:

    Does this means they are going to spend more than the 40million budget cap ???

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