Virgin Racing, 0 wins, 0 poles, 12th in Constructors’ Championship
If Lotus’ first season on track turned out more or less how they expected it to, Virgin’s fell below their expectations for a variety of reasons. First they were caught out by a couple of changes in fuel regulations which meant that the fuel tank wasn’t quite big enough to do the race distance. They were given dispensation to change the chassis – something which is expressly banned nowadays for cost saving reasons.
Reliability was worse than expected, due to a range of problems, of which hydraulics was the main culprit. There were 17 retirements out of a possible 38 car finishes, of which only three were accidents.
These two things had a knock on effect on performance, meaning that the team couldn’t develop the car until mid season and although the original car was faster than the Lotus, the updated one struggled to beat it. Glock managed to qualify ahead of the Lotus cars just five times, including the first race.
They would also not have expected to finish plum last in the championship, but Hispania managed a couple of 15th places, which took them ahead despite having a much slower car.
Technical director Nick Wirth has taken the bold step of using only the computer simulation tool CFD to develop the aerodynamics, with no reference to a wind tunnel. He believes that the developments his team carried out this year vindicate that decision. But significantly more downforce is necessary to get this car into a position to challenge the likes of Toro Rosso.
The team has been very open and friendly and I had several opportunities to go behind the scenes and see what they were up to. They want to become part of the fabric of F1 and believe that there is a place for a team like theirs in the field.
Far from being based all under one roof, like most teams, VR is based on a three way partnership between Manor Motorsport, which runs the cars, Wirth Research, which designs them and Virgin which handles all the commercials. The three sides come together at races. There are some good people in the team who know what they are doing and next year should see a step up on the operational and technical side.
On the driving side, Glock handled the come down from competing for podiums with Toyota to battling for 17th place very well. He was very fast most of the time and raced well. He was on a roll in Korea heading for 12th place at least until he was taken out by Sebastien Buemi in a crass move, which wrecked Virgin’s chances of finishing 10th in the Constructors’ table. Lucas di Grassi is one of the nicest and most eloquent drivers, but ultimately he didn’t have the pace to match Glock, although at times he wasn’t using the same equipment. He has been replaced for next year by Jerome D’Ambrosio.
Photos: Darren Heath