The (very brief) history of Virgin in F1

There seems to be a fair bit of excitement in the F1 world over the idea that such a well-known brand as Virgin may associate itself with F1. Despite the megabucks involved in the F1 world, and the massive worldwide exposure it can provide any brand, it is fair to say that F1 has failed to attract most of the major brands in the world.

Aside from tobacco companies, a few alcohol companies, and latterly electronics firms and a few financial institutions, it is interesting quite how many big brands have never touched F1 with a barge pole. Coca-Cola? Nowhere to be seen. McDonald’s? Nope. Virgin? It could be about to happen.

It wouldn’t quite be the first time Virgin has been involved in F1. A few articles have pointed out that Virgin Mobile had a relatively minor deal with Jordan in 2002. That is the full extent of Richard Branson’s involvement in F1 to date.

There was something else in the back of my mind. I remember in 1999, Arrows (then led by the big-talking and ambitious Prince Malik ado Ibrahim) was very proud of itself for bringing the Virgin brand into F1 for the first time. It had secured a minor sponsorship deal with Virgin Records, whose logo appeared in a tiny red area just in front of the cockpit. You can just about see it if you use your imagination while looking at the picture on F1 Wolf’s 1999 liveries post.

But with the world of the Virgin brand being rather complex, Richard Branson had nothing to do with it. As this article on Grandprix.com, written when the deal was made ten years ago, points out, Virgin Records had been sold to EMI seven years earlier.

So if a deal between the Virgin Group and Honda goes ahead, it won’t be the first time Richard Branson has been involved in F1, and it certainly won’t be the first time the Virgin brand has been in F1. But such a deal would easily eclipse the earlier forays, so it will still be momentous for F1.

Not bad for a sport that’s supposed to be in the doldrums. No wonder Bernie Ecclestone is so enthusiastic about the prospective deal.

5 comments

  1. what a turnaround from Bernie. few months ago he did not care if there will 20 or 18 or 16 cars …

    I still can’t tell how much of these Virgin stories are true, but after Autosport decided to run story sort of confirming even Bernie has been talking with Branson then probably there is something going on … But even Bernie still only gives it fifty fifty chance …

  2. The thing is, Bernie also has a vested interest in talking up the prospects of a Virgin deal. I doubt he would lie about it. But the silence from Virgin themselves is deafening.

  3. Again wondering if customer teams would be better for F1. Why take the pain of lickin others’ ass for money from one of the greatest sports ever to man?? Sorry state of F1 under the tight fists of business morons.