Sponsor Branson committed to struggling Virgin

(GMM) Sir Richard Branson on Saturday said he remains committed to formula one.

The British billionaire is lending the name of his Virgin group to the struggling team despite it failing to improve in its second season in 2011.

Indeed, not long after Branson spoke, Jerome d'Ambrosio became the only driver in the Montreal field to fail to achieve the necessary 107 per cent lap time to qualify for Sunday's grid.

But Branson, 60, said on a rare visit to the F1 paddock: "I'm committed.

"I thoroughly enjoy Virgin's involvement with the team and the sport, and hope it will be for a while."

Virgin Racing, however, is now backed by the Russian supercar maker Marussia, and Branson pointed out that his company is "effectively a sponsor".

"Hopefully Marussia can use the Virgin brand to start raising its profile globally, and I'm very happy to be used when I can be helpful," he said.

The team has cut its ties with Nick Wirth as the technical direction faltered, but Branson said he is upbeat about the future.

"Everybody within the team accepts performance needs to improve," he said.

"They've made tough decisions, and they've one or two quite exciting things they've told me about – which I can't talk about – which will hopefully see them go up the grid over the next year or two."

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