The new Virgin Racing team today became the first of the new teams to unveil their 2010 car.
It is quite appropriate timing as the debate intensifies about new teams, their viability and the possibility that they are to be allowed to miss up to three races this season.
Virgin have distanced themselves from that debate with this new car, which in itself is a mould breaker as it was designed entirely using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) with no time whatsoever in a wind tunnel. It is the first time in F1 that this approach has been taken.
At the launch of the new team, Sir Richard Branson made a big fuss of the fact that he likes innovators and pioneers and he has fully backed Nick Wirth’s revolutionary approach. It is a big gamble though and if it backfires and the car lacks downforce or has aerodynamic stability issues, then it will be embarrassing.
But Wirth is very confident that this will not happen.
“I am well aware of exactly what it takes to be successful in this sport, ” he said. “When you see what the existing teams have achieved using the conventional but proven design approach, it is unsurprising that there is a great deal of scepticism about our all-CFD approach.
“But we are competing in a sport that is undergoing significant change having come face to face with today’s harsh economic realities. Under resource restriction, convention will become too costly and necessity really will be the mother of invention. I have absolute belief in the digital design process and the opportunity to put the all-CFD approach to the test at the highest level – to demonstrate that this could be the way for the future of F1 – is very, very exciting.”
By not having a wind tunnel and a department to run it Wirth and Virgin have saved themselves a significant amount of money and around 60 to 100 jobs. Among the technical team assembled by Wirth is Christian Silk, the highly experienced ex Renault engineer.
The car will run for the first time in a shakedown test at Silverstone on Thursday and Friday.
Team principal John Booth said, “It was always intended that we would miss the first all-team test in Valencia this week and very early on we targeted the second Jerez test in two weeks’ time for our public testing debut. It is a testament to our methodical approach and the sheer hard work of the team that we are heading to Spain a week earlier than planned to take part in the first Jerez test next week.”
Assuming reasonable reliability, this will allow them to put up to 4,500 kilometres onto the new car before the first race in Bahrain.