Branson loses F1 bet
Abu Dhabi - Virgin's billionaire boss Richard Branson and AirAsia head Tony Fernandes measured each other up as potential air stewardesses at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday.
The sight of two grown men, one bearded and the other on the short side, assessing each other's likely dress size was due to a bet between them when their respective teams were preparing to make F1 debuts back in March.
Lotus Racing team principal Fernandes had challenged Branson to dress up as a flight attendant and serve on his budget airline if Virgin Racing ended the season behind them in the championship.
Branson accepted, with the proviso that Fernandes would do the same on Virgin Atlantic if the Malaysian lost.
With the season drawing to a close after 18 races, Lotus look hard to beat thanks to Heikki Kovalainen's 12th place in Japan in September.
Virgin's highest placing so far has been 14th with Germany's Timo Glock in the same race and Brazilian Lucas di Grassi in Malaysia.
"He's quite serious about it, so am I. If we don't mess it up, he should be donning our uniform," Fernandes told Reuters as he leant on the pit wall. "He'll have to work the whole flight. He'll have to serve, he'll have to clean, he'll have to clean the toilets," added the Malaysian, who said he intended to put Branson to work on his London-Kuala Lumpur route.
"He has to shave his legs, we don't allow hairy stewardesses," he said, with two of his red uniformed attendants posing with his British rival outside the teams' garages.
"He'll have to look like one of these two girls out there. But he likes dressing up as girls.
"I think deep down he probably hoped he lost. It's another chance to dress up in drag," said Fernandes, who would have to work Virgin's London-Lagos route if he lost the bet.
Branson, who picked up one of the stewardesses and walked off into the Lotus garage with her laughing nervously under his arm, recognised the situation looked bad but was already exploring loopholes while seeking the silver lining.
"I thought in Korea I was safe until Timo was shunted off the track so things are not looking too hopeful but we still have tomorrow to go," he said.
"If he won't let me on his plane without shaved legs, I'm not sure how we are going to conclude this deal.
"There is a rumour with Lotus they won't have the name any more so maybe I'll be able to review the small print of the contract. The lawyers are definitely all over the contract at the moment.
"The only positive thing is we own 20 percent of his company so I'll be able to get some promotion for a company I have a stake in if I lose," joked the bearded entrepreneur.