Virgin’s missed opportunity in Canada leaves them last again

2011 F1 season review

Timo Glock, Virgin, Abu Dhabi, 2011

Virgin were last again in 2011

Poor reliability was the chief reason why Virgin finished last in the championship in their first season.

They finished in the same place this year, but it’s fair to say that misfortune played a greater role in them failing to beat HRT this time.

More often than not, Virgin out-qualified and out-raced their back-of-the-grid rivals in 2011. What ultimately made the difference was a single race: the Canadian Grand Prix.

With six laps to go Timo Glock was running 14th in front of his team mate, the HRTs and Jarno Trulli. But he locked up his tyres, damaged them badly, and fell back.

That allowed Vitantonio Liuzzi to claim the 13th place which made the difference between the two teams at the end of the year. This was despite Virgin having two 14th places and three 15ths. HRT’s next best finish was a single 16th place, which Virgin had three of. It’s a tough world outside the points places in F1.

Virgin team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 14th (2)
Best grid position (number) 19th (3)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 8 (5/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,820 (80.32%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2010) 12th (12th)
Championship points (2010) 0 (0)
Pit stop performance ranking 11th

Virgin’s reliability was measurably better this year: retirements due to technical failures fell from 14 to five (plus one failure to start, also due to a car problem), which was better than Williams, Lotus or HRT managed. Their percentage of laps completed increased from 72.5% last year to over 80%.

However this remained a glitch-prone team which suffered problems in some unusual areas. Such as the pit wall failure in Suzuka which left them without timing information to make their strategy calls.

More alarming was Timo Glock’s rear wing failure in qualifying at Monza, when the Drag Reductions System jammed open. Jerome D’Ambrosio had a suspension failure in practice at Sepang and his front wing failed in China.

Timo Glock, Virgin, Montreal, 2011

A lock-up for Glock in Montreal cost Virgin 11th place

In pure performance terms Virgin fared even worse than last year. By the end of the season it was hard to imagine this was the team that had vied with Lotus on pace for much of last year.

That much was clear in Monza, where retirements offered Virgin their best chance of getting back in front of HRT. Glock finished 15th behind the two Lotuses, 50 seconds adrift of Kovalainen.

Alarm bells were ringing at the first race weekend when the team were more than 7% slower than the fastest time in the first two practice sessions, raising fears they might fail to qualify under the 107% rule. This did not happen, and although the team later fell foul of the rule on more than one occasion, it was usually related to some technical problem, and they always received permission to race.

However they came under increasing pressure from HRT and were out-qualified by their rivals in the final race of the year.

Long before then, technical director Nick Wirth had been shown the door. With him went his radical policy of eschewing wind tunnels and instead modelling the car entirely using computer simulation. One month later, the team concluded a deal with McLaren to use their car development tools including a wind tunnel.

Timo Glock, Virgin, Sepang, 2011

Virgin will become Marussia in 2012

This, and plans to consolidate the team’s disparate bases of operation, should help make the MVR-03 a more competitive proposition. But the impending collapse of the Resource Restriction Agreement is the worse possible news for this tiny team.

Their entry into F1 was originally conceived under Max Mosley’s budget cap. The team then found itself operating under the less restrictive RRA, and even those restrictions now look set to disappear.

Among the other changes coming for next year will be a new name: Marussia. The Russian sports car brand has taken over the team’s entry from Richard Branson’s company.

D’Ambrosio will also not remain with the team – like Lucas di Grassi before him, he loses his seat after his first year in F1.

He compared reasonably well against Glock and although there were crashes in practice in India and Canada it seems harsh to hold those against him when the world champion did much the same. His spin in the pits in Hungary was embarrassing, though.

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin, Korea, 2011

Jerome d'Ambrosio has lost his seat to Charles Pic

He occasionally gave his team mate cause for concern, particularly at Suzuka, where he edged Glock in qualifying on the renowned ‘driver’s track’. He put up a good fight in the last race at Interlagos as well, but the deal to replace him with Charles Pic had already been done and was announced within hours of the chequered flag falling.

Opportunities for Glock to shine were even rarer than they had been last year, though he was thrilled with his qualifying lap in Monaco where he trimmed the deficit to Lotus to half a second, and made an excellent start in Valencia.

Nonetheless Glock has pledged his long-term future to this team which is a bold move for the former GP2 champion given their lack of success so far.

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66 comments on Virgin’s missed opportunity in Canada leaves them last again

  1. HRT Fan said on 5th December 2011, 22:04

    At the end of the day Glock as good as he may be made a mistake and when you make a mistake you have to expect that it will cost you and in this case it ultimately cost Virgin (Marussia)12th place in the Constructors Championship.

    Liuzzi for all his critics did a better job that day in very difficult conditions and ultimately won HRT 12th place in the Championship and the extra prize money that comes with that.

    • themagicofspeed (@) said on 5th December 2011, 22:41

      Prize money is not applicable to teams scoring no points, nor are the sports profits distributed to teams finishing lower than 10th place in the WCC. Thats why Lotus were so happy to finish 10th for the 2nd year running, as it means they get a share of the profits from FOM, while HRT and Virgin get little or nothing.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 6th December 2011, 8:06

        From what i read about the subject, it seems there is a bit of money to divide between the teams that are not in the top ten but its about 10 Million/team, a far cry from the 35-40 that 10th placed Lotus gets now that its finished in the top 10 for 2 years on the run (the other top 10 finishers get more)

  2. themagicofspeed (@) said on 5th December 2011, 22:37

    Virgin have been such a flop, an embarrased Richard Branson denied them the investment they desperately needed, and distanced himself from the team to save himself the reputation rididule. In fact, it appears he has sold it completely to russian car manufacturer Marussia, who previously were a sponsor, then a major shareholder. You never, ever see him or any senior Virgin people at the races. Frankly i dont blame them, because its an embarrasment. Virgin could have easily provided the investment needed to push the team up the grid (look at the Red Bull case study; Masechitz bought a mid-field team and, over a few years, made the right choices, recruited the best technical staff in the business, and invested massively in the technical facilities, and created the well-oiled championship winning machine that is modern day RBR. He was not afraid to invest what ive no doubt will be a surprisingly small amount of his Red Bull fortune, employing the right people to create a winning team.

  3. burgy (@burgy) said on 5th December 2011, 23:47

    Inevitably three teams will be the bottom. If its not Lotus, Virgin and HRT it would probably be Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso. Reliability is just so good these days that its almost impossible for a backmarker to get a fluke result.

  4. Anti-RBR (@matt2208) said on 6th December 2011, 2:25

    Points in F1 should be HARD to get, 25 points for a race win is way to much.

  5. I reckon we’d be complaining a lot less if the three ‘bottom’ teams were at least close on performance. They never seem to be having any good scraps like you get in GP2/V8 supers/BTCC etc. It would be good if they could all at least find the same level, even if that’s still behind the midfield.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 6th December 2011, 8:18

      Personally I think its only reasonable that its hard to even get close to the long established teams. If anything, it shows how the F1 field really is at an enormously high level.

      Just imagine someone coming in, spending about the same level as the midfield teams (Lotus) and immediately beating several experienced and established teams to it. Wouldn’t that mean, that the teams we had before they came in were giving us only lacklustre performance?

      Instead these newer teams show its really the work of several seasons to build up a slick operation and field a car that can even fight the back of the experienced teams on the grid.

  6. OOliver said on 6th December 2011, 6:11

    Look how long it took Rebull before they started winning races. Look how long it took STR before they won a race.
    And they didn’t even set up these teams from scratch, they bought already existing teams.
    Speaking out of ignorance, is expexting a 2year old to run at the same pace as a teenager.

    Perhaps the situation WilliamsF1 find themselves in will put things in much better perspective. They are not much faster than the new teams, despite having the infrastructure and experience.
    F1 is not like the Internet where you can have successful companies overnight. Selling nothing but time wasting activities.

    What is 2 years, when you have teams that are over 50, 30, 20 years in the sport.

  7. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 6th December 2011, 10:12

    I think it’s unfair that Virgin should be last, as they were clearly better than HRT this year in terms of pace and reliability. Therefore, I’ve come up with a different way to judge the standings based on consistency rather than one singular result, and it would look something like this:

    Each position is added up over a season, for example, coming 19th and then 18th would add up to 37, and a retirement would equal 24. This not only rewards consistency and reliability, but that singular good result as well. It basically forms an average finishing position when dividing the number you’ve added up by the number of races that the driver had competed in.

    I calculated this and the results change from:

    21. Trulli
    22. Kovalainen
    23. Liuzzi
    24. D’Ambrosio
    25. Glock
    26. Karthikeyan
    27. Ricciardo
    28. Chandhok

    10. Lotus
    11. HRT
    12. Virgin

    To…

    21. Kovalainen – AFP (Average finishing position) = 18 (Who was better than Trulli for most of the season I thought, and this reflects that)
    22. Trulli – AFP = 18.4
    23. D’Ambrosio – AFP = 19.05
    24. Glock – AFP = 19.78
    25. Chandhok (The only possibly unfair result) – AFP = 20
    26. Ricciardo – AFP = 20.83
    27. Karthikeyan – AFP = 20.88
    28. Liuzzi – AFP = 21.16

    Crucially, the constructor’s would change to:

    10. Lotus – AFP = 18.2 (18.8 with Chandhok’s result)
    11. Virgin – AFP = 19.415
    12. HRT – AFP = 20.95

    With the exception of Chandhok’s position, I think that this is a much fairer way of deciding the teams and drivers who do not score points, and the standings easily reflect the better drivers and teams over the course of an entire season as opposed to just one result.

    Possibly, for the drivers, they need to enter at least 3 races to gain an average finishing position and enter the driver standings.

    Also, NCs DNS and DNQ I have counted as adding 24 on, although if they’re considered worse than DNFs then it could be easily remedied to reflect that.

    • TheBrav3 said on 6th December 2011, 19:56

      What about karthikeyan? He only did half a season and whilst i don’t remember the finishing positions i remember coming away with the distinct impression that liuzzi outdrove him everytime they were both in the car.

      Rather than averages which would probably turn out largely like the bernie patent medal system. I think points down to 1 for 24th place increasing by 1 for each position up to 10th or 6th. Where you could then start putting in the points differentials we have now would give a more accurate representation of the season. If this were the case though you would need to increase the ammount of points for the top places from what they are now to keep the importance of podium finishes wins and top 10 or 6 results.

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th December 2011, 11:19

    I’m really torn over this team.

    On the one hand, they ditched Wirth as they knew he wasn’t going to take them anywhere. A bold move, particularly mid-season. They effectively admitted they were writing off this season but with a view to kick-starting 2012 with a bang.

    However, ditching D’Ambrosio hasn’t impressed me. I’m not naive enough to believe that talent comes before money in the lower realms of the grid but perhaps I could forgive them if Marussia hadn’t just taken control of the team. I could sympathise a little more but I don’t think Pic is ready for F1 yet and I certainly don’t think D’Ambrosio has had a fair shot. It’s difficult to see how he could have actually done any better, but then again, I guess that doesn’t matter.

    So in conclusion, not a great season but given that they pretty much admitted that as soon as they did makes me optimistic.

  9. Valandil (@valandil) said on 6th December 2011, 12:32

    People are coming up with some crazy points systems that unfortunately don’t make any mathematical sense! A system where the driver gets low points for a good result and high points for a bad result is obviously just the reverse of extending the points down to last place! So whats the point? It’s much more natural to have (and much easier to follow) a system where more = better.

    Plus, there would only be one point between first and second place, just as there would only be one point between 23rd and 24th place. Remember when the points system was overhauled a few years ago and everyone was saying that there should be a greater reward for a win? There’s no scope for that in a reverse system.

    And averaging out the points the drivers have with the number of races they’ve completed? Whats the point?!? There are no positives to this (as points down to last place would accurately represent the performance of each and every driver over a whole season) and a load of negatives! So Alonso wins the first race of the season, and then doesn’t race again… he ends up with an average score of 1 and wins the championship! It would be impossible for another driver to beat his average unless they only competed in one race themselves and won. And what about drivers that only do a few races? Chandhok could do one race and finish 20th so have 20 points, whereas Liuzzi could race all year and also have an average points score of 20, so according to the points he is no better than chandhok. It simply doesn’t work! You’d have to start adding rules about number of races competed in, which would be useless as why not just count the points normally. If every driver competes in 20 races, whats the point of dividing every drivers score by 20? It wouldn’t change any results, they’d just have smaller numbers.

    And 25 being too much for a race win? Err what? That can only be judged relative to what you get for the other positions, and the percentage difference between 1st and 2nd is the same as it was when the points went to 8th. The number itself couldn’t be more irrelevant if you wanted it to be. And besides, I bet you preferred the points to 6th place, right? Well the percentage difference was even bigger then, so how can 25 be too much as it is smaller?

    It’s like when the points were extended to 10th place, everyone was saying they were pleased that a win was being awarded more. There was no difference, its exactly the same gain over second as it was before!

    Maths lesson over.

    • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 6th December 2011, 16:36

      If you’re referring to my post at all in that speech, then you’re wrong, as my suggestion was only for teams and drivers who do not score points, and therefore the results are justified.

      I didn’t say anywhere that the points system should be over-hauled or changed in anyway, as I believe the points are fine as they are. But there needs to be a better system in place for the teams in the situation that we’ve had in the last two years to quantify who deserves each place.

      • Valandil (@valandil) said on 6th December 2011, 17:15

        You mentioned yourself that the chandhok result would be unfair, I was just trying to explain this and the other flaws and inadequacies of the various alternative points systems people like to come up with every now and again from a mathematical point of view. I was basically trying to explain how and why a normal points system extended down to last place is the only viable option if people want to fairly represent the performance of all drivers over a season.

        My examples may not have been about the exact situation you were talking about but the same ideas hold true. Say glock managed to nab an 11th place at the first grand prix, he could then not race again for the rest of the season and would most likely beat all the other “new team” drivers and Virgin would most probably finish 10th in the constructors. Doesn’t matter if HRT finished 12th in every race, Virgin would still beat them.

        Hence there are inherent flaws no matter how you look at it.

        • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 6th December 2011, 17:44

          Well, not really, because I said that there should be exceptions made in the case of drivers who only participate in one race, and therefore aren’t part of the standings.

          And in the circumstance you mentioned, Virgin wouldn’t finish 10th as the other drivers for Virgin would also be put into the frey, meaning that if Glock did have one race, where he finished 11th, and HRT finished 12th in every race, with the second driver 13th in every race and the other Virgin driver not being able to equal that over a season, then HRT WOULD finish in front of them.

          If you assess the calculations properly then you will see that there are very few flaws, and the ones you have pointed out are easily remedied, as I have said.

          • Valandil (@valandil) said on 6th December 2011, 18:36

            From the drivers point of view:

            I understand you are thinking about the teams rather than the drivers, but do you really want to separate scoring system into one for the constructors and one for the drivers? (not to mention that this is only for the teams that don’t score points) That would be extremely odd to say the very least (just imagine the fuss if Bernie suggested separating them), so you have to have them the same.

            So what about the drivers that don’t compete in 2 races? Or 3? Or 4? Or 10? Where do you draw the line?

            Should only drivers that have completed a whole season be eligible? Bit harsh on Liuzzi who missed a race so that Nahrain could race, so we’ll let him enter. But then there’s another driver who only missed two races so we’ll let him in as well. But then there’s a driver that only missed four races, and he’s not very happy about the exceptions…

            So shall we let drivers that have completed half a season be eligible? Well there’s a driver that had a terrible second half of the season because his team decided to stop development to work on next years car, so all of the good results he had in the first half of the near are negated. However, his team mate left the team half way through the year, so now he’s at a disadvantage because his team mate has only got his good results so he is classified higher. He’d have been better of not racing for the second half of the season as there was no way he could have beaten him.

            Hmm, hardly a fair sporting competition is it.

            There shouldn’t have to be any “exceptions” or “remedies” because that means the system is flawed! Ever wondered why sometimes the “new” version of Windows requires more computing power but offers little benefit over the last one? Because rather than being built from the ground up it has been patched and altered outside of its original design specifications. Just an example of why any system should be created to specifically solve the problem, not be bodged and altered until it does.

            From the teams point of view:

            Averaging out their finishing positions is the same as giving them more points for the higher they finish, so whats the point? All you’re doing is dividing the reverse points for each team (which of course has the same classification order as a normal points system) by the same number, so nothing changes except the numbers get smaller and you have to have awkward “remedies” for unusual situations, i.e. there are no benefits.

            There aren’t any calculations to assess, just thinking logically about the alternative solution compared to the problem and existing solution shows up the flaws.

      • TheBrav3 said on 6th December 2011, 20:02

        Erm you can’t have averages and points because for instance torro rosso have had top 10 finishes and well below top 10 finishes how do you work out an average on less than 10th place finish + x points? you need one system.

        • JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 7th December 2011, 7:33

          Why would you need an average finishing position for a team that scored points? They’d already have a set position based on those.

          It’s only a way of determining the Constructor positions of the teams who don’t score points more fairly than it currently is.

          • TheBrav3 said on 8th December 2011, 7:07

            You were talking about the drivers championship as well. Which is in just as much need of “fixing” if indeed the constructors is. Having two different systems for teams and drivers is also extremely silly because it’s overcomplicating it.

            So let’s examin what would happen in the drivers championship in your system. if rubens got 11th place at every grandprix he would be 11th in the drivers standings, ahead of heidfeld kamui di resta and alguersuari this season who all got more than 20 points. Even if you say a driver or team can’t be above anyone who has scored points again you are over complicating it. Most arm chair viewers the larger portion of the several million people watching grandprix racing don’t know or care as much as people on f1 fanatic. There’s people out there who still don’t understand when they are allowed to use drs and you’re talking about making a scoring system on averages specificly if a team or driver doesn’t score points during a whole season. So they can then be ordered amongst other teams whose results are done on the averages system effectivly making a points championship and an averages championship one on the other. To much.

            Considering you’re changing the goal posts with each post i think i’ll just say you havn’t thought this through enough.

  10. themagicofspeed (@) said on 6th December 2011, 21:55

    I agree that, if the bottom three were a tad more competitive, say 1-2s rather than 2.5-4s off the pace, it would not be so annoying. Drivers like Vettel, Alonso, et al, must get so annoyed having to lap them every 15-20 laps or so. Few of the back marker drivers have much respect for blue flags.

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