Virgin Racing

A dismal showing at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix has left the powers-that-be at Virgin Racing with plenty to think about ahead of the team’s first major aero upgrade for its MVR-02 contender, which is scheduled for the first European race of the championship season at Turkey.

By all calculations, the team has taken a step backwards relative to the hardly earth-shattering form it showed in its debut season, with the new car proving about a second slower – in terms of the deficit to pole position – than its predecessor, which saw drivers Timo Glock and Jérôme d’Ambrosio only just manage to qualify for the race.

And with the prospect of similar results for at least the next rounds in Malaysia and China to look forward to, this has already prompted Glock to call for swift action and – dare he suggest it – more funding from the team’s principal backers, including team co-owner Sir Richard Branson.

“This round of long-haul races means there are few developments we can bring to the car until the next significant upgrade for Turkey,” confirmed team boss John Booth.

The team’s persistence with using a design process solely reliant on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) – essentially designing without the use of a wind tunnel – is coming under increasing scrutiny, and more will begin to question the wisdom of the cost-saving venture if it doesn’t start delivering some results on the track.

The team’s technical director Nick Wirth (below left) is an exponent of this philosophy, but he is still yet to deliver a truly breathtaking machine in Formula 1, with his design credits being the Simtek S941 and S951 chassis’ of 1994-5, and the Benetton B199 of 1999. Both Simteks were generally conservative in their design and hindered by a considerable lack of funding, while the B199 (below right) was overweight and, frankly, a dog.

Nick Wirth Benetton B199
Can anyone name a decent car penned by Nick Wirth? Nope … didn’t think so…

Last year’s VR-01 was embarrassingly designed with a fuel tank too small to see the cars to the end of most races.

It is believed that one principal problem with this year’s MVR-02 is Wirth’s use of a long engine exhaust, which has both cost the cars horsepower from the Cosworth units and harmed the cornering speeds.

“Nick seems to have miscalculated something,” a team insider is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

To those outside the team, the problem is obvious, as Force India’s test driver Nico Hülkenberg said: “They have not enough downforce, especially at the rear.”

It is understood that the major upgrade will include new exhausts, a new diffuser and a rear wing redesign, but it is also rumoured that the team is already examining a ‘Plan B’ if this upgrade doesn’t deliver some quick results.

[Images via Flickr, Sutton Images and The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.