Having concluded a sponsorship partnership with Brawn GP on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne at the weekend – a race the ex-Honda F1 outfit went on to dominate – it is understood that Richard Branson's Virgin Group only has a $500,000, two-race agreement with the team...for the time being at least.
The British entrepreneur joked that he was 'just a lucky b***ard' after Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello stormed to a one-two finish for the embattled Brackley-based concern Down Under – a race he had cut short his own skiing holiday to attend – in so doing making Brawn GP the first team in more than half a decade in the top flight to achieve a clean sweep on its grand prix 'debut'.
Whilst it is believed that the deal is currently only in place for the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix – at a rate of $250,000 a race – Branson has hinted that with the sport's gradual move to more energy-friendly fuels and technology, he is keen on sticking around for the longer-term, and that a change of name from Brawn GP to Virgin could even be in the pipeline for the future.
“Occasionally in life you get those situations which are too good to be true,” the 58-year-old is quoted as having said by international news agency Reuters
, “and this was one such situation. “Watch this space. We'll see how it goes.”
There are currently three Virgin logos on the two BGP 001s, with Sports Pro Daily Deal
reporting that the agreement may ultimately be extended to one of title sponsorship, with Virgin possibly assuming a significant share in the squad – although still contributing no more than $10 million in total to Brawn GP's budget.
Branson was persuaded to come on-board after witnessing the encouraging testing pace of the new, Mercedes-powered challenger earlier this month – having previously got cold feet about the idea of saving Honda F1 by purchasing the team from its Japanese parent company.
“We've thrown something together in a very quick period of time,” he explained of the opportunistic deal. “We signed it four hours before I got on the plane. We would have come here with a slightly more complete deal, I suspect, if we'd had a bit more time. We've come here with the first stage part of the deal, which is meant in two stages, and we will see what happens over the next two or three weeks.”
Sports Pro Daily Deal
also reports that the Brawn GP was so desperate to find a major backer prior to the start of the new campaign that it was offering a year's title sponsorship free-of-charge to any party that would commit to a contract for 2010 – an approach that failed to lure Emirates.
Meanwhile, though overshadowed by the Virgin announcement in Melbourne, Brawn GP has signed a separate sponsorship deal with clothing company Henri Lloyd, with an undertaking to supply the team with clothing and footwear throughout the season – at an expected cost of in the region of $800,000 – in exchange for corporate branding on the cars.