The second official test starts on Thursday at Jerez in Spain and in the last couple of days we have had the launch of the new Virgin and Force India cars. Hispania has yet to launch, but it released some images of the car today, just in front of Force India. It also announced that it will not take part in the Jerez test but will instead test in Italy on a Pirelli filming day.
Virgin held a showbiz event at the BBC TV Centre on Monday. The car is the second F1 product from the digital nerve centre at Wirth Research, the technical partner of Virgin Racing. It is also the first since the team took on a significant shareholder and title sponsor Marussia, some of whose executives are now integrated into the engineering and management structure of the team. So important is their presence that the team is now racing under a Russian licence.
Virgin has a more stable base since the Marussia investment and now it’s really all about how good the car is. Unlike Lotus and Hispania, who have done customer back end deals, Virgin is sticking with the Xtrac hydraulics and gearbox, last year’s versions of which proved troublesome.
“We were extremely pleased to have proved our digital design process in Formula One last season and to have demonstrated that it is possible to compete at the highest level of motor sport with a car designed wholly in computer simulation,” said Wirth.
“We have addressed every single issue that troubled us last year, but in our own unique digital way. For example, the hydraulics and gearbox oil problems of last year have resulted in us doing more CFD in these areas alone than we used in the entire aero design program our first digital race-winning sportscar in 2008. In Abu Dhabi we took the opportunity to prove out these digital improvements by successfully track-testing a number of systems for the MVR-02.
“The MVR-02 is a giant step forward from the VR-01, and we are looking forward to further improvements here as we finally begin to benefit from the new Supercomputer that our partners CSC have provided for 2011.”
One possible ace in the hand for the team is the Wirth Simulator, on which the company has extensive experience over several years of building tyre models for Michelin. This could stand them in very good stead in terms of understanding and exploiting the Pirelli tyre and could be a differentiator from other smaller teams.
The drivers are Timo Glock and Jerome D’Ambrosio. Glock is capable of great things and had some outstanding drives in 2010 which went largely unnoticed at the back of the field. Like Trulli and Kovalainen, the senior drivers who took a step down last year to start again with a new team, he will be hoping that this car gives him the chance to mix it with the midfield teams. It will be a disappointment for Lotus and Virgin if they are still running in their own Class B at the back this year.
Force India did a live web launch this afternoon ahead of the first day of testing in Jerez. Driver Adrian Sutil said that the team is targeting fifth place in the constructors’ championship. “Everything is different but visually a lot of it is subtle,” said new technical director Andy Green. “The most obvious change is that we’ve gone away from a conventional roll-hoop to a blade. But there are a lot of differences under the skin that people won’t necessarily notice.
“Exhaust management will be a big area of development this year. There will be a big upgrade for the first race so there are some changes that will come into effect at the Barcelona test. Further down the road there are some big updates for the front of the car coming in for the first European race.
Force India cars have recently been good at low downforce circuits and not so good on high downforce ones. The technical team has made efforts to address this.
They have the Mercedes KERS system which is a big help to the team as it is both one of the lightest and most reliable systems in the field.
Force India started last season strongly but was overhauled in the points table by Williams as developments did not translate to big enough gains on the track. Although they have taken an extra week in the wind tunnel at the start of the season in order to have the strongest car at the opening races, they are also targeting a strong finish to the season. The battle with Williams over sixth place looks set to continue, although the team is aiming higher.
The team finished seventh in the constructors’ championship last year when Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi were at the wheel and team owner Vijay Mallya is now expecting a significant improvement.
“’2010 was an exceptional year for the team, 68 points overall, seventh in the championship with only teams who had previously won world titles ahead of us, which demonstrated we are still on target to achieve our goals,” said Mallya.
“And this year there is even more to be optimistic about. We’ve got three race drivers that are hungry to take the next steps in their careers, whether that be points, podiums or wins.”
Paul di Resta signed for the team in January after impressing in his role as their reserve driver last season. The 24-year-old will become the third Brit on the grid alongside McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
“I don’t want to say exact targets on record as there are so many factors that can come into play,” said di Resta. “What I do want to do is to have a positive approach, finish, be consistent and contribute strongly to the team’s overall performance. We’ve got high aims of finishing in a good constructors’ championship position and I know that I’ve got to play my part in this.”
Technical director Geoff Willis and chief designer Paul White are responsible for the new car which features a distinct livery, created by design expert Daniel Simon. The old dark grey colour has been replaced by an eye-catching chequered flag design with flashes of red.
The team have marked out areas where potential sponsors could have their logos because as yet, Narain Karthikeyan’s backers Tata are the only sponsor on the car.
“The F111 represents a significant step forward for Hispania Racing,” said team boss Colin Kolles.
“We have made a big improvement for starting our second season in Formula 1 and what you see in our new car confirms Hispania Racing’s commitment to F1.”
The team won’t be in Jerez for the second pre-season test after deciding to do some private filming with their 2010 car for tyre supplier Pirelli at Monza. Instead, they are hoping to have their new car ready to test for the first time at the final test in Bahrain.