Max Mosley's representative at centre of sponsorship row
3 July 2009

New for 2010 Formula One team Manor is reported to have landed sponsorship from Virgin - and walked into a row in doing so.

A report in the Guardian newspaper says that Virgin will switch from current championship leaders Brawn to Manor, as it feels it can get better exposure for less money.

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The Guardian has seen an email from Alan Donnelly, who is Max Mosley's official representative, saying the Virgin tie-up was completed several weeks ago. The email was sent before the FIA had officially announced which new teams it had selected for the 2010 season.

"Virgin have signed to be investment partners with a share holding of around 20 per cent," said the email.

Donnelly's involvement in the deal has also caused controversy, as his job is to represent the sport's governing body, not individual teams.

This has been further exacerbated by another email seen by the Guardian, in which Donnelly appears to be setting up a meeting between Manor and the Saudi royal family.

The Formula One Teams' Association has previously written to the FIA questioning Donnelly's neutrality in his role as a steward at F1 events.

However, the FIA has rejected these claims, and says that Donnelly's role in the Virgin/Manor deal is merely part of the FIA's job to help bolster the grid and improve the sport.

Donnelly says his visit to Saudi Arabia was purely official FIA business to meet with the country's sports ministry, potential investors in new circuits and the Saudi Motorsport Federation.

"I also met potential investors in Formula 1," the Guardian quoted him as saying. "It would be odd for an FIA representative to refuse to assist in any of these projects."

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