London: “Virgin Group could take over Honda’s Formula One team if certain conditions were met,” Richard Branson said on Saturday.
Speaking for the first time about his company’s reported Honda bid, Branson said that it would be fun to join Formula One but would not be drawn on whether talks were ongoing with the British-based Japanese team.
“To be perfectly frank, even if we were about to take over Honda, I’m sure they would have a clause which would say that I’m not allowed to talk about it,” Branson told BBC Radio Four.
“I love Formula One, I think there are faults there which would need to be rectified before we moved into Formula One,” he said.
“We’d need to be sure that Bernie Ecclestone is running it, that the teams can make ends meet and we would need to be sure that he’s on a path to turn Formula One in to a sport that is championing green technology.
“It’s not very green at the moment. Those two provisos would be essential before Virgin entered the sport,” he added.
Earlier this week, a source close to the Japanese manufacturer said that Virgin had made a bid to buy the team.
Time is running out to find a buyer, however, as the season starts in Australia on 29 March.
Honda put the team up for sale in December because of the global economic climate, leaving British driver Jenson Button and 700 employees at the Brackley base in limbo.
Formula One supremo Ecclestone has welcomed any Virgin bid for Honda and Branson is clearly enthusiastic about a sport that would offer a high-profile for his brand.
Asked about Ecclestone’s response, Branson said: “I’m delighted he said it and it would be great fun, and subject to those two provisos maybe something might be able to get sorted out. Virgin often does things that other people don’t do.”
“We wouldn’t want to enter the sport unless it could be profitable for us. It’s obviously very well viewed in places like India and China and the Far East, South America, quite a lot of European countries and so with the Virgin brand expanding on a global basis it’s certainly something that is attractive,” he said.
Branson, whose Virgin Mobile company sponsored the now defunct Jordan team in 2002, said that it was essential that the Honda team should not be allowed to fold.
“If there are talks somebody is going to have to move very quick,” he said adding: “There’s tremendous engineers involved and it is essential that teams are not lost.
“I very much hope that the Honda team survives and thrives and moves up the rankings quickly under a new brand,” the British entrepreneur said.