F1 2010 season preview: Virgin

The Virgin VR-01 was designed without using a wind tunnel

The Virgin VR-01 was designed without using a wind tunnel

Virgin were the first of the new teams to appear on the track in testing. But they’ve suffered mechanical and aerodynamic gremlins with their VR-01.

How will they fare against the other newcomers, and can they trouble any of the established teams in their first season?

Car design

Virgin has put its faith in a car designed entirely using Computational Fluid Dynamics meaning neither the VR-01 nor models of it have seen the inside of a wind tunnel.

The car was designed by Nick Wirth?s company Wirth Research, who previously designed Acura?s ARX sports cars exclusively using CFD. But transferring that approach to single-seat F1 cars will be difficult.

Wirth says he is returning to F1 (after unsuccessful stints with Simtek and Benetton in the 1990s) because the Resource Restriction Agreement will allow teams to compete on ingenuity rather than who can spend the most. Using CFD instead of wind tunnel testing is a cheaper way of going racing ?ǣ but will it prove as successful?

The team ?ǣ which is essentially the Manor Grand Prix operation but now backed by former Brawn sponsors Virgin – were the first of the new contenders to test their car, but quickly ran into trouble.

A failure in the hydraulics stopped their tests on several occasions and the team are waiting to test their latest fix for it once Grand Prix practice begins on Friday.

More worryingly the front wing came off during the Jerez test due to a component failure. The team believe the problem is now fixed and there was no repeat of the problem during the subsequent tests.

Driver line-up

Timo Glock completed his move to the team shortly after Toyota announced they wouldn?t be competing this year.

At the time he was highly complimentary about going to work for a small, British team – but that might just have been a hangover from spending the last two years at Toyota?s vast and unwieldy Cologne operation.

His leg has fully healed after his season-ending crash at Suzuka.

For Lucas di Grassi, making his F1 debut with Virgin marks something of a homecoming.

He drove for Manor?s F3 team in 2005, finishing third in the European series behind the dominant ASMs of Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil, but winning the prestigious Macau Grand Prix.

Having been close to an F1 drive with Renault in the past, di Grassi has finally got the F1 break he’s been expected to land for a couple of years.

Strengths

They hit the ground running early, have the best-looking car on the grid and a big-name backer.

Weaknesses

Is Glock ready to be a team leader? After their troubles in testing merely finishing a race will be a triumph.

Poll: championship position

Expect a tooth-and-nail fight with Lotus for ??best newbie?? honours. Where will Virgin place in 2010?

Where will Virgin finish in the 2010 Constructors' Championship?

  • 1st (1%)
  • 2nd (0%)
  • 3rd (0%)
  • 4th (0%)
  • 5th (1%)
  • 6th (1%)
  • 7th (1%)
  • 8th (3%)
  • 9th (6%)
  • 10th (20%)
  • 11th (35%)
  • 12th (27%)
  • 13th (5%)

Total Voters: 802

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47 comments on F1 2010 season preview: Virgin

  1. Cyclops said on 10th March 2010, 16:55

    Oh the sexy black ‘n’ red car. Too bad it’s losing parts. I can see Branson riding a bike behind Glock and picking up stuff.

  2. Enigma said on 10th March 2010, 16:57

    Glock said that he had been offered seats at Sauber and Renault – but because he hadn’t been sure if those teams would be on the grid, he had decided for Virgin (Manor at the time).

    • Accidental Mick said on 10th March 2010, 17:01

      The only downside to this will be the endless pictures of Branson’s grinning beard.

      • Fer no.65 said on 10th March 2010, 20:06

        spot on there!

        i remember being particularly scared the first time i entered the Virgin F1 website…

        i was using my new 19 inches LCD screen, with a very big resolution…

        and all i got after pressing “Enter” was Mr Branson face smiling at me…

        i almost fell from my chair…

  3. maciek said on 10th March 2010, 16:57

    No ill-will to them, but I have the feeling that they may be the next Toyota – lots of money thrown in all the wrong directions. And the CFD-exclusive approach just doesn’t fill me with confidence. I’m not sure, either, how long Branson will stay interested if they fail to perform quickly.

    • bobo said on 10th March 2010, 21:03

      I think Branson usually tries to make his ventures work, even if it takes some effort (and money).

  4. Robert McKay said on 10th March 2010, 16:58

    If I had to guess, I think early doors they’ll be best of the three new teams, but Lotus will progress quicker than they do and will end up faster by mid-season.

    But to be honest, I’m really not sure.

    I do like Virgin though, nice looking car, like their drivers, interested in the CFD-only approach. Hope they go well.

  5. I think their livery looks awful, particularly the white outlines. If they get one car across the finish line in Bahrain it will indeed be a triumph.

  6. F1withMySon said on 10th March 2010, 17:08

    Go Timo! Drive the wheels off of it, or at least the hydraulic fluid out of it! :-)

    Beautiful car. Wish them the best of luck.

    Wonder if they’ll add the shark-fin engine cover later this season?

  7. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of CFD once the car manages to do a few laps in succession.

    As I’ve commented before, wind tunnels, although responsible for proving some magical bits of design, have also led some major teams down a blind alley on several occassions.

    I’ve voted 12th because I think they have still got so much to do but I’d love to see them do better.

    I think Richrard Branson will stick with it for some time, he didn’t succeed straight away with his Blue Ribband boats or his hot air balloons but kept trying till he succeeded. If he gets personally involved he could be a great motivator for everyone in the team. I just hope he doesn’t try to get in the car himself, he’s just the sort of person who might.

  8. I think Virgin will finish the season in 11th.

    At the start of the season I think Virgin may be the fastest of the new teams but they probably won’t have the reliability required to capitalise on any chances to score points. However as the season goes on I think Lotus could edge ahead of them.

    The driver line-up is perfectly respectable although if given the funds and the choice I would have thought that a new team especially would prefer two experienced drivers, which I think could be key in Lotus beating them this season.

    • Bentschke said on 10th March 2010, 21:35

      I think that Virgin will do better that Lotus because they have two quick drivers. While Trulli and Kovalainen are experienced, they are not fast – where as Timo and Lucas (Timo especially) may be able to eek that little bit extra out of the car.
      Imagine what the Trulli trains are going to be like this year if he qualifies in the top ten – my goodness…

      • Mike said on 11th March 2010, 5:51

        So many have a go at Trulli, He did consistently out pace Glock, He scored more points last season in the same car, and he has a lot of experience!

        • Mike said on 11th March 2010, 5:54

          adding… I think the term “Trulli train” only came about as he was A:) able to put a slow car way up in the qualifying standings and B:) was very experienced in holding his position.

  9. Scribe said on 10th March 2010, 17:20

    It may well be the best of the new teams in raw pace but when your four seconds of the lead pace thats not what gets you points. As Gascoyne and strangley Legard have said is that it’s reliability. If at some point in the season, all hell breaks loose, rain throws strategy out of wack, a big crash closes the field, basical fate conspires to produce a crazy race, it’ll be the car, like Sutil in 2008 Monaco, driving along in a lucky place to grab a point or two. An if hydralics and reliability always pop up your damn well certain they’ll pop up then. I think they could well be robbed of any points they get into contention for.

    • George said on 10th March 2010, 20:24

      I’m not sure they’ll have as much trouble with reliability as people are saying, from what I heard from the test most of their problems were caused by the hydraulics, if they’ve got that sorted then it could go either way.

  10. Calum said on 10th March 2010, 17:23

    I think Virgin will be able to keep developing thanks to the Virgin co’s money, so will overall win out of the rookies. Wheras the HRT will be best CAR at start thanks to the experience of the chassis builders, however I don’t think the team will be able to take adnvantage of this because of rookie drivers. Therefor Virgin will win from start!

    • George said on 10th March 2010, 20:26

      If you’re looking for experienced chassis builders surely Lotus would be better than Dallara (mostly ex-F1 designers)?

  11. wasiF1 said on 10th March 2010, 17:27

    11th, I doubt that CFD will be a success in F1.

  12. Virgin Racing is a good joke, too…

  13. Peter said on 10th March 2010, 17:41

    I just don’t think Branson will have the same fun as last year. I just do not see him as the man celebrating as single point. Since we had to change the rules to allow points for first 10 places…
    Nevertheless, they were at the tests, they have an all CFD car that could just work with quick development time for progress. So I think progress is this year key for Virgin. Next year we expect much more.

  14. I actually think Virgin will be there or thereabouts with Lotus this season although Virgin will start the faster of the 2 because they have had more development time.

    Virgin have a development advantage on every other team in f1, they don’t need or want to wind tunnel test. As long as their software is accurate it lowers the development cost and the time taken to make upgrades for their car. Don’t forget the software will advance with the figures they get on the track as well so they’ll be constantly refining it. Nobody except Wirth Research knows the limitations of their software.

    If I was to make a wild conditional guess – I would say Virgin will be troubling the mid-field by the end of the season – if their software is accurate.

  15. steph said on 10th March 2010, 18:12

    For UK users (not sure if it works outside UK) http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8549736.stm
    BBC team discussing the new guys.

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