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GP Week : Issue 47
Brawn and Virgin to split? Are the World Championshio leaders about to Google? THE big rumour of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend was that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group sponsorship of the BrawnGP team may come to an end. With BrawnGP winning five of the first six races of 2009, it is reported to be in serious negotiations with a number of potential big sponsors, and is understood to be growing tired of Branson’s reluctance to agree to pay a reasonable rate for his sponsorship of the team. Virgin’s deal with Brawn, which was announced at the Australian Grand Prix, has been rumoured in some areas of the press to have been for as little as £250,000 (US$400,000). Branson was set to announce further details of how his deal with Brawn would unfold at the Spanish Grand Prix, but no news on the extension of the sponsorship has been forthcoming. Interestingly, and despite attending the race on his BrawnGP pass, Branson was seen for much of the weekend on Red Bull’s motorhome ‘The Energy Station’, adding extra fuel to the fires of rumour. Also of interest was the attendance at the race of Larry Page, one of the two founders of Google and one of the richest men in America, as a guest of McLaren sponsor Vodafone. Page is a friend of Branson’s, and there is some talk that it may be Google who could ultimately replaces Virgin as Brawn’s main sponsor, if the price does not turn out to be right for Sir Richard. Monaco players back Ferrari KEY political players in the organisation of the Monaco Grand Prix have called on the FIA to do more to ensure that Ferrari and other key manufacturers do not pull out of Formula 1. Michel Boeri, the head of the Automobile Club de Monaco, said over the weekend: “What would the Monaco Grand Prix be without Ferrari? A catastrophe. Like the Cannes Film Festival without the stars.” His statement was backed up by his Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, who told the BBC that while it would be hard for teams to go against the FIA, Formula 1 should think about the manner in which it was governed. “It’s hard to go against the governing body of the sport but you want to ensure a fair and even playing field for everybody. I’m sure we cannot afford to lose teams like Ferrari or Renault. I think it would be such a bad image for the sport that I am sure that a solution is going to be found.” Regardless however, he insisted that Monaco would fight to keep its place on the calendar. “The economic impact can be measured in hundreds of millions of Euros, and it is part of history and should there be a change in regulations or in the sport’s outlook on things, then we would all put up a big fight to try and keep the grand prix here. “We are happy to work with the FIA and everyone involved in F1 racing.”