Like HRT, the team formally known as Manor Motorsport would definitely have been in further doubt for the 2010 season, if it wasn’t for investment – and a change in name – from the Virgin group. Unlike HRT, though, their rate of development has been much slower, if at all, leading to worries about becoming the slowest of the new teams by the end of the year.
Virgin are in danger of being caught by HRT
On the day of the launch of the car, it all seemed very impressive. The VR-01 was the first ever Formula 1 car to be designed using solely Computer Fluid Dynamics. On the other hand, it has never seen a wind tunnel, the first time this has happened to an F1 car since the wretched 1997 MasterCard Lola. Despite this, the car looked good, and had a very handy line-up, of Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi.
Which would have been great, if the fuel tank was big enough.
It emerged after the first two races that the fuel tank was not big enough to last a full race distance, unless the drivers backed off considerably, rendering their efforts useless in the first place. After a very embarrassing request to the FIA to modify their chassis to allow the larger fuel tank, their new revised VR-01 was able to race to the finish – after Turkey. Which means that, for the first 7 races, the Virgin team was unable to show their genuine pace.
Since Turkey, the team have achieved their second double finish. That is pretty much the only good news that they have given us so far, as they have the highest retirement rate of all of the new teams this year so far, and their highest finishing position was 17th in Valencia.
After all of this misfortune, I’m impressed that they have kept their heads up and continued to push hard, but the fact of the matter is that, since the start of the season, they have not closed the gap to the frontrunners enough. Wirth Research (the company that did the CFD) will need vast improvements to this -and next year’s- cars if they are to stay up with the rest of the pack.