The curiously-named Marussia Virgin Racing is an odd mix of famous multinational, an experienced junior-series racing team and the ambition of a Russian sports car firm.
So just what is Marussia Virgin Racing? Well, it’s one of the three rookie outfits looking to bridge the gap to the midfield in 2011, eschewing the conventional processes by relying on an all-CFD concept for its car design.
And while it’s a massively cheaper road to go down, it didn’t exactly paid off in 2010, although it hopes it can turn things around in its sophomore year…
Virgin Racing’s 2010 track record
First entered under the Manor Motorsport name, the team was a surprise addition to the 2010 Formula 1 entry list, although its pedigree is without question.
Founded by John Booth, Manor has been a mainstay in British motorsport circles where it has achieved considerable success in Formula Renault and Formula 3, with it proving a training ground for the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen.
One area in which Manor was lacking was a background as a chassis designer and builder, and so it called upon the services of former Benetton designer Nick Wirth, whose company opted for the CFD approach in creating the team’s first bespoke F1 chassis.
Viewed sceptically by many, its innovation attracted Sir Richard Branson to plant his Virgin empire’s name on the car, and the team signed Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi, both former Manor protégés.
Running close to the pace of main rival Lotus, the team suffered a major embarrassment when it was revealed that its fuel tank was too small for it to make it to the end of most races. The issue was rather academic, as the VR-01 was woefully unreliable anyway…
A hasty redesign was ordered, but it cost the team valuable development time and ground to Lotus that it never really regained.
Glock punched above his weight when the car was running and has stayed on for another season, while di Grassi found himself slowly eased out by well-funded GP2 veteran Jérôme d’Ambrosio, who assumed Friday test driver duties late in the season.
Watch the Richard’s F1 pre-season vodcast as Richard and Jen take a look at Virgin Racing’s prospects for the 2011 season:
[Images via AUTOSPORT; video via Matt Lennon]
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