Virgin to Manor, YouTube to US F1

UPDATE #3 US F1 joint boss Peter Windsor has promised that the new North Carolina-based Formula 1 team will boast a '21st century' sponsor package, and refused to deny that video website YouTube will be among its backers.

YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley attended the British Grand Prix with Windsor and his US F1 partner Ken Anderson.

In an interview with American broadcaster SPEED channel, Windsor was coy about US F1's chances of a YouTube tie-up.

"I did see Chad at Silverstone, he was around and it was good to see him there," said Windsor.

"People have tied him to our team, which is incredibly flattering, and who knows?

"We've got plenty of announcements that we'll be making shortly, and we'll be announcing the identities of all of our investors and quite a lot of other stuff as well, really exciting stuff.

"At the moment all I can say is that we've just got our heads down doing what is immediately important to us, which is building the team now that we've got our entry.

"But we have got a great investor group and it's going to take us into the 21st century in a way that you guys have never imagined."

Windsor also confirmed that the loss of the budget cap – a regulation that he had previously cited as key to the US F1 project – should not be an issue for the squad.

"The official limit has gone and of course that means that teams can now spend whatever they want," he said.

"But the point that [co-founder] Ken Anderson and I have been making from the start, that we believe we can do a lot more for less money than the other teams in the pit lane, is still incredibly valid.

"Although the teams are saying that the budget cap has gone, none of them are saying that they're going to carry on spending $250 to 400 million dollars a year.

"They're all saying that they're going to cut back.

"Our point is that if you take whatever that number is, whether it's 30 million or 200 million, we're going to be able to do more with that number because of the way we're doing the team.

"We're starting from zero, which is a big help in terms of keeping costs down and not having to absorb redundant systems, and beyond that we believe in the philosophy of American technology, and I think that's going to give us a lot of advantages in many areas." ITV-F1

07/03/09 (GMM) Manor Grand Prix chief John Booth on Friday would not confirm reports that Virgin is set to sponsor, buy into and possible re-name the new 2010 formula one team.

It has been reported and rumored in recent days that Sir Richard Branson will switch his allegiance from Brawn to Manor next year, in a deal that could also involve a 20 per cent shareholding and perhaps even naming rights.

But while confirming that funding has been in place for several months, Booth is not ready to confirm the Virgin speculation, and denied that an equity sale has been agreed.

"The Virgin link is just speculation and I couldn't really comment on it for legal reasons, and it is unhelpful to speculate about Virgin," he told the Yorkshire Post.

Complicating the issue slightly is that Manor's plans were always based on the FIA's 30 or 40m pounds sterling budget cap, which has now been replaced by an agreement with FOTA whose details are unclear.

"Hopefully, it should become clearer in the next couple of weeks. There does seem an intention from all concerned to get the costs under control," Booth said.

"We have only been planning to join formula one for the last five or six months. Over the years it has not been feasible, you had to be a multi, multi-millionaire to even consider it.

"But with the budget restrictions it has made it more accessible," he added.

07/03/09 (GMM) Virgin has decided to buy a share of the new Manor formula one team, a leaked email has confirmed.

Sir Richard Branson's brand currently backs Brawn GP but the British billionaire suggested recently that the success of the team in 2009 had sent its 2010 sponsorship price too high.

We reported last week that Virgin may already have signed a deal to re-name and possible buy into the new 2010 entrant Manor, which involves FIA president Max Mosley's former Simtek colleague Nick Wirth.

Recent reports indicated that Mosley's FIA representative at grands prix and chief steward Alan Donnelly may also be involved, confirmed now in the pages of the Guardian newspaper.

An email authored by Donnelly indicates that the Virgin-Manor linkup was in place even before Manor was selected to join fellow new teams US F1 and Campos on the 2010 grid.

Donnelly wrote: "Virgin have signed to be investment partners with a shareholding of around 20 per cent."

Donnelly's questionable neutrality is also likely to return to the spotlight due to his arranging of meetings with Manor officials and a member of the Saudi royal family.

His email, attached to a draft Manor sponsorship and investment agreement, goes on: "I will be in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and look forward to seeing you at our planned meeting … with representatives of Manor and Virgin.

"However if you would like a pre-meeting with me privately on Sunday then please let me know," Donnelly added.

Virgin and Manor did not comment, while Donnelly insists the email is not evidence of improper behavior as he was already in Saudi Arabia on official FIA business.

Manor boss John Booth, meanwhile, told the English newspaper Dinnington Guardian that the team's commercial package will be confirmed in the next few months, followed by announcements about drivers in October.

06/26/09 (GMM) Sir Richard Branson has signed a deal to re-name the new formula one team Manor Grand Prix after his Virgin brand in 2010, Britain's BBC reports.

The flamboyant billionaire said at Silverstone last weekend that he is unlikely to continue sponsoring Brawn GP next year, because the Brackley based championship leaders' value has skyrocketed.

Before the former Honda team's immense success, Brandon had grand plans for Brawn, including full naming sponsorship and possibly the transfer of equity.

Those plans, however, have reportedly been simply switched to the fledgling and more affordable 2010 entry Manor Grand Prix, the collaboration of boss John Booth's F3 outfit and former Simtek chief Nick Wirth.

Along with the Virgin speculation, the BBC reports that another well known global brand will be involved with a new formula one team in 2010.

Like Branson, YouTube co-founder American Chad Hurley was also at Silverstone, reportedly putting the finishing touches on a deal with the new US F1 team.

As the Team US F1 plans speed along, team co-founder Peter Windsor was stepped down from his role interviewing the drivers in the official post-qualifying and race press conferences, replaced by former ITV commentator James Allen.

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