Tag Archives: John Booth

Jerome d’Ambrosio lands Virgin drive for 2011

Jerome d'Ambrosio will drive for Virgin in 2011

Jerome d'Ambrosio will drive for Virgin in 2011

Virgin Racing have signed Jerome d’Ambrosio to take the second race seat, alongside Timo Glock for the 2011 season. This means that 2010 driver Lucas di Grassi has been ousted from the team, after a disappointing first year with the squad.

D’Ambrosio drove in several Friday Practice sessions for Virgin near the end of the season. He impressed the team with his pace, and now replaces Lucas di Grassi, who constantly fell behind his rivals this year.

This year, Jerome has been racing in the GP2 Asia Series, and finished 12th. Oddly enough, Virgin test driver Luiz Razia finished ahead of him, in 11th, but has been passed over for the second race seat. D’Ambrosio took  his first race win this year since 2007. He previously won the 2007 International Formula Master Championship, and the 2003 Belgian Formula 3 1.6 Series.

Team Principal John Booth explained their decision:

"Jerome had been on our radar for quite some time as a driver 
we should seriously consider for a 2011 race seat. We had 
followed his progress in GP2 closely and it was clear he was 
‘one to watch’, but when we put him in the car for the four 
race weekends and the Abu Dhabi test he surpassed even our 
own expectations.

He slotted into the team perfectly and everyone took a shine 
to him, including our partners and the media. Apart from his 
obvious skill at the wheel of a Formula One car, he is an 
immensely personable young guy who is a pleasure to have around. 
He has secured this seat absolutely on merit and I think coupled 
with Timo we have the perfect blend of youth, experience, speed 
and potential and we can’t wait to see what they can achieve 
together next season."

From what I’ve heard, this move is certainly not made with financial backing in mind. D’Ambrosio does not appear to have much of a sponsorship package behind him, so Virgin must be signing him based on talent alone, which is great to see. While his results do not appear good on paper, you must remember that the last driver who went from poor results with DAMS (GP2 team) to an F1 team was Kamui Kobayashi.

Virgin launch VR-01 online

The new Virgin VR-01

The new Virgin VR-01

The Virgin Racing VR-01 has been launched online, which makes them the first of the new teams to launch their cars.

The car was released entirely online, which gives the Virgin the tag of an “all-digital” car. This is because this car was entirely designed using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), which is using computers to simulate the aerodynamics of the car. The designer of the car, Nick Wirth, was behind the CFD project, and said:

“Today is a very proud day for everyone involved with Virgin Racing, however on this occasion, where the car is the star, I want to pay tribute to all the amazing people at Wirth Research who deserve so much of the credit for the VR-01. Putting together an F1 team, assembling an engineering group and designing a new car from scratch is an epic task in the timeframe we have been working to.”

“I have been fortunate to have worked with the very best designers in F1 and I am well aware of exactly what it takes to be successful in this sport. When you see what the existing teams have achieved using the conventional but proven design approach, it is unsurprising that there is a great deal of scepticism about our all-CFD approach. But we are competing in a sport that is undergoing significant change having come face to face with today’s harsh economic realities. Under resource restriction, convention will become too costly and necessity really will be the mother of invention. I have absolute belief in the digital design process and the opportunity to put the all-CFD approach to the test at the highest level – to demonstrate that this could be the way for the future of F1 – is very, very exciting.”

I’m only taking a guess here, having never seen the performance of a CFD car, but this seriously looks like the future of technology in F1. The most affected team by this would be Williams, who recently invested tens of millions of pounds into 2 new wind tunnels.

The team principal of Virgin, John Booth, explained why the car wasn’t ready for the Valencia tests:

The first stage in our on-track evaluation programme is our two-day shakedown at Silverstone on Thursday and Friday this week, where we will conduct systematic testing and confidence-building of all car parts and on-car systems. It was always intended that we would miss the first all-team test in Valencia this week and very early on we targeted the second Jerez test in two weeks’ time for our public testing debut. It is a testament to our methodical approach and the sheer hard work of the team that we are heading to Spain a week earlier than planned to take part in the first Jerez test next week.”

Richard Branson added to this, saying:

I’m sure we will be measured by how fast the car is on the track in Jerez next week, but I hope that doesn’t overshadow the far bigger achievement of pulling an entire racing team together and taking a brave step that defies convention. In many ways this is an exploration, but given the absolute self-belief we have seen, I can’t help but feel very excited about what we can go on to achieve in the years ahead.”

“For now though I’m looking forward to seeing the VR-01 on –track in testing in the coming weeks as we prepare for Virgin Racing’s very first grand prix.”

VR-01 dimensions

Length: 5,500mm
Height: 950mm
Width: 1,800mm
Wheelbase: 3,200mm

Having never seent the car on track, it would be a bad idea to make judgements on the Virgin car already. However, we can definitely say that the livery looks great. I was pretty close when I showed the picture of the possible livery last week.

The car itself is a bit odd in places. First of all, the front wing looks heavily underdeveloped, in all sections. The Red Bull nose has been adopted, but only slightly. The nose cone itself is very different to the other teams, being much narrower. Also, the side engine intake area doesn’t look very aerodynamic at all.

Does it remind anyone else of the MF1 car from 2006?

Video of the car launch:

Pictures of the launch:

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