Virgin linked with Manor sponsorship

Richard Branson and his Virgin brand have been linked with Formula One newcomers Manor Grand Prix after the entrepreneur said he was looking for a small team to sponsor next season.

Virgin currently sponsor Brawn GP, having agreed a deal early in the season to sport the company's logo on the side of its cars.

Sir Richard Branson Virgin - 0

However Branson has said that the success of the fledgling squad - which was set up in the place of the ailing Honda team - could make it much more expensive to set up another deal.

"(Brawn's) value has gone from next to nothing to £50m a year," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.

"We're delighted for them (and) we have most likely got the mileage we needed from (the deal).

"I suspect, next year, the price will be astronomical and we may have to look somewhere else with a smaller team."

There had been talk that Virgin would buy naming rights for Ross Brawn's team.

The media has now speculated that the object of Branson's attentions could be South Yorkshire-based Manor F1, which is poised to jump from the F3 Euroseries to the top flight along with the design skills of former Simtek owner Nick Wirth.

The team has ambitious plans to field the first F1 car designed entirely using CFD technology, rather than a wind tunnel, and brings a strong pedigree from the lower ranks, where stars such as Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen piloted its cars.

Branson's money, even on the scale of his support for Brawn, could be vital for Manor boss John Booth, who admitted over the weekend that he was investigating how the latest accord in the FIA-FOTA feud would affect his plans.

The Yorkshireman signed up for F1 under FIA president Max Mosley's proposed £40m budget cap but, should the latest truce hold, will need to find more as the teams police spending themselves as they attempt to bring the cost of competing down to the ambiguous 'early 1990's levels'.