Branson unveils Virgin Racing

SIR RICHARD BRANSON yesterday launched his Virgin brand’s new Formula One venture after joining forces with one of the sport’s new teams in a multi-million pound deal.

The business tycoon, who backed debutants Brawn GP to the constructors’ title last season, has now thrown his weight behind Manor GP – one of four new franchises to make up an expanded 13-team grid for next season.

As a result, the team have been re-branded as Virgin Racing and will take their place in the 2010 grid along with fellow newcomers US F1, Campos and Lotus F1.

Branson explained: “Our first year in F1 was tremendous for the Virgin brand, so why not go in again with a new team from scratch?

“If you look at the history of Virgin we’ve loved supporting technical breakthroughs, great engineers, and there’s something like 120 engineers working away on this project.

“Last year with Brawn, they started the season as a David and it ended it as a Goliath.

“So we searched around for another great team, another David team, we have one and we will see how it goes.”

Branson has also confirmed the signing of Brazilian rookie driver Lucas di Grassi, who partners No1 driver Timo Glock after spending two season in GP2 and as a test driver for Renault.

Glock, meanwhile, predicts seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher will return to the sport in 2010 with the Mercedes team.

“The flame is still there, it’s still burning,” the German said. “For me, it is quite obvious he is coming back.”