And — as is already happening in comments here — let the Vitaly Petrov to Virgin rumors begin.
Here’s the Virgin announcement:
Virgin Racing announced today that Marussia Motors has acquired a significant shareholding in the team, securing its long-term future and ensuring that it can continue to go from strength to strength in pursuit of its racing ambitions. From the 2011 season the team will be known as Marussia Virgin Racing.
Virgin Racing was established last year when Manor Motorsport joined forces with WR Technology Limited (Wirth Research) and Virgin to compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Marussia Motors is not new either to Formula One or to Virgin Racing – the nascent Russian sportscar company, headed by ex-racer Nikolay Fomenko, has been a partner of Virgin Racing since the F1 team was launched in December 2009.
â€œThis is definitely a good news story for Virgin Racing and for Formula One,â€ said Graeme Lowdon, Chief Executive of Virgin Racing. â€œMarussia Motors has been a much-valued team partner throughout the 2010 season and we are delighted to introduce them formally as the significant shareholder in Virgin Racing and a major force in the teamâ€™s future. This announcement cements our place on the Formula One grid and is testimony to the hard work and dedication of every single member of our team.â€
For Moscow-based Marussia Motors, the purchase of this shareholding reflects the new sportscar manufacturerâ€™s ambitious plans to position itself firmly on the worldwide automotive radar. The aim is to utilise Marussia Virgin Racing as a powerful international marketing platform. This also means that there will be a major Russian presence in the Formula One paddock during the build-up to the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, to be staged in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in 2014.
â€œThis is the realisation of a dream for Marussia Motorsâ€, confirmed Fomenko. â€œWhile manufacturing, launching and marketing the Marussia B1, B2 and other concepts in Europe, we will have a Formula One team to promote these activities and demonstrate to the world that a new car manufacturer has arrived from Russia with truly international ambitions.â€
The investment by Marussia Motors, alongside strategic investor LDC, will enable the team to plan more ambitiously for the longer term. Specifically, there will be no significant change to the teamâ€™s organisational structure as it prepares for its second season in the FIA Formula One World Championship.
Virgin Racing Team Principal, John Booth, who has overseen the teamâ€™s development throughout the season, is confident that the investment from Marussia gives the team the stability and focus to strengthen its position within the sport. â€œI am extremely proud of what we have achieved with Virgin Racing in what is really only 16 months since the team was founded. I am delighted that the significant efforts of the team have been recognised and have attracted the commitment of Marussia Motors, which will enable us to move forward and deliver against our five year target for success.â€
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies, commented: â€œOur first year in Formula One was always going to be tough – even more so as we were launching in the midst of a worldwide recession. Virgin is delighted to have secured a partner which shares our vision and spirit for challenging the establishment and we look forward to working together to move the team up the Formula One grid.â€
What this means to the team’s driver’s lineup is unclear. Tim Glock, I believe, has a two-year deal — but we all know how much Formula 1 contracts are worth these days. With Lucas di Grassi’s losing his own big sponsor during this year, I think we can expect not to see him. So that could be a spot for Petrov right there.
Which of course opens back up the Renault seat. Does that refresh Kimi Raikkonen rumors? Does it give Mark Webber a place to go when he and Red Bull realize they can’t work together any longer? Or does Renault just end up with a second-tier driver like an Adrian Sutil?
I doubt any of us are surprised to see a Russian company make a big entry into Formula 1. That felt bound to happen. Is it anything other than a good thing, do you think?