Tag Archives: Virgin

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.

Marussia invests in Virgin Racing

Nikolay Fomenko, owner of Marussia, with Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock

Nikolay Fomenko, owner of Marussia, with Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock

Marussia, a Russian sports car manufacturer, has announced that it has invested in and acquired a “significant stake” in the Virgin Racing team. As well as this securing the team’s participation in the sport, it also means that the team will be renamed Marussia Virgin Racing next year.

For much of this year, word around the paddock was that a lack of investment, particularly from Richard Branson, was stunting Virgin’s progress. With this new company on board, the team claim that they can now “cement their place on the F1 grid”.

Marussia logos already appear on the Virgin cars, as they have sponsored them all year, and this investment is to promote Marussia’s venture into the European sports car market.

Jerome D’Ambrosio joins Virgin for Friday sessions

Jerome D'Ambrosio, also reserve driver for Renault, will now drive in FP sessions for Virgin

Jerome D'Ambrosio, also reserve driver for Renault, will now drive in FP sessions for Virgin

Virgin Racing have announced that they have signed Jerome D’Ambrosio as a test driver and as an “evaluation role” for 4 of the remaining 5 races this season. He will be replacing Lucas di Grassi in certain Friday Practice sessions for this season.

He will take part in these FP sessions in Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brazil, and the team will be continually assessing his performance. He will replace Lucas di Grassi for all of his racing time, alongside Timo Glock. At the moment, he is competing in the GP2 championship, and currently 10th.

It is also believed that he will take part in the 4-day test in Abu Dhabi after the season conclusion.

It is worth noting that while Timo Glock has 2 years left on his contract, Lucas di Grassi’s expires at the end of this year, although Virgin have the option to extend this. While D’Ambrosio may well just be being evaluated for a drive later on, the idea of him replacing Di Grassi next year can’t be ruled out.

At the moment, D’Ambrosio is part of the Gravity Sport Management, of which the CEO is Eric Boullier, team principal of the Renault team. Similarly, Jerome is a reserve driver for the Renault team, whose reserve drivers are all managed by Gravity Sports. Therefore we can’t rule out Renault using Virgin to try out the 25-year-old either.

2010 Mid-season review: Virgin

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

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.

HRT targeting Australian race finish

Colin Kolles (left), team principal of HRT

Colin Kolles (left), team principal of HRT

After the somewhat dissapointing end to HRT’s Bahrain Grand Prix, the team are looking for improvements ahead of the Australian Grand Prix next weekend. According to team principal Colin Kolles, the team is targeting a race finish. He said:

“We have worked extremely hard since the Bahrain season opener. We have worked 
long hours and successfully with Bridgestone, Cosworth and Xtrac learned from 
our first laps with the car and found a good basis from which to start
preparation for our second Grand Prix in Australia in a few days.

We have successfully repaired the damage sustained by Karun Chandhok’s car and 
focused on building our car’s reliability. Our goal is to improve steadily and 
the next step is to work towards our first race finish. I am confident we will 
achieve this goal very soon and having seen how we came together as a team in 
Bahrain I can see just how much potential and commitment we have.”
Bruno Senna, before a radiator leak causes him to retire

Bruno Senna, before a radiator leak causes him to retire

First driver Bruno Senna did get 17 laps in the race, but then the car overheated thanks to a radiator leak, causing retirement. However, the Brazilian is happy with the team’s performance in Bahrain, an hopes to build on that in Melbourne:

“We need to continue building on what we achieved in Bahrain. We put two cars 
together and ran successfully in Bahrain. Now we must continue to work as a 
team. I came early to Australia to acclimatise to the time difference. I love 
Australia more and more, as I spend more time here! I have already driven on 
the Melbourne track, back in 2006.

I did the F3 support race for F1 back then and had a fairly successful weekend. 
I won! Now, I must work with the team to continue learning about the car. I 
have enjoyed working long hours with the team so far and I will be giving my
all as I really want to progress and guarantee them good results.”
Karun Chandhok just after his crash on Lap 2

Karun Chandhok just after his crash on Lap 2

Meanwhile, Karun Chandhok had a much harder time. He wasn’t able to run the car in Friday practice thanks to technical problems. He drove the car for the first time in qualifying, and was only 1.7 seconds behind his team-mate after only 2 laps in the car, which is pretty impressive. He still wasn’t used to the car, however, and crashed on Lap 2 of the race. Chandhok is now looking forward to the race in Australia:

“I am really looking forward to my second F1 race this weekend. I have never 
driven in Melbourne, but I am a very quick learner. I was able to work on a 
team’s simulator before the Grand Prix so that will help my familiarisation a 
little bit! Our next step with the team’s engineers is to make the car 
reliable for the race. The secret of good racing preparation is to complete 
as many laps as possible on Friday to see where we are with the car. Finishing the
race would be a fantastic achievement we will strive for.”

With the complete lack of track time, HRT did what they could in Bahrain. I don’t actually think they will, nor do I expect them to, finish in Melbourne, because of the track’s car-breaker record. Still, if they can set consistent laps for about 20 laps or so, then I would be happy with them. Naturally, with much more track time, I’m hoping for at least one finish each from Lotus and Virgin. All of this will change by Barcelona  (Race 5), and I will be expecting race finishes by all three teams by then.

Todt in favour of 107% rule

Jean Todt

Jean Todt

The president of the FIA, Jean Todt, has said that he is in favour of the reinstation of the 107% rule. However, he stressed that such a rule change would not take place this year, and would be in place by a minimum of 2011.

This year, the three new teams of Lotus, Virgin and HRT have been well off the pace, HRT dangerously so, and this has prompted many people to ask for the old 107% rule back.

The 107% rule is where each driver muct be within 107% of the fastest lap set by the pole sitter. If they aren’t, they are unable to race. Generally, being within 107% of the fastest time means a few seconds or so behind, as it varies by circuit.  While this would be slightly difficult to implement in the current 3-tier qualifying system, it could be done.

Todt is one of the many people in favour of this old rule, saying:

"We are very in favour of reintroducing the 107 percent limit. The reason
 why it was abandoned was because of the change in qualifying which was 
happening with fuel to start the race in the car.

Now to change that for 2010 you need to have the unanimous agreement of 
the teams, and to get the unanimous agreement of the teams the FIA will 
be supporting this solution.

I don't think it will happen so we have to wait until 2011 to introduce 
it."

However, he stated that he was still in favour of having the new teams in F1:

"You must have respect for a new team who is arriving in this particular 
economic crisis period and to invest money to be in F1. I don't think it 
is a time to criticise but to support and help, and to help them, and it 
is in the interests of everybody.

Everybody in the business should be supportive of these days. I was 
impressed today, they did quite well and we must give them a certain 
time to be ready."

I would be mostly in favour of this. The one problem is that, by the time the 107% rule is renistated, the teams will have gotten up to speed, and within a few seconds of the leaders, making the rule mostly defunct.

Senna: HRT a second faster than Lotus and Virgin

Even though HRT are yet to even set a single lap in their car, Bruno Senna seems confident of a good start to the season, saying that their car is up to a second faster than the Virgin and Lotus counterparts.

According to Senna, this is becasue the data accumulated in the Jerez and Barcelona tests by Virgin and Lotus have already been acquired by HRT. He said:

"Lotus and Virgin were in Barcelona, just a good second faster than
the GP2 cars, of which Dallara has all the data.

According to their calculations, we should be faster than the GP2
cars right away, by two seconds...of course, much will also depend
on whether the car is stable from the beginning, to some extent.

I hope that we will be ahead; firstly because of the experience of
the Dallara men and secondly because we might have a little luck in
the way of some problems hitting the other teams again, particularly
with the hydraulics (as in testing)."

I suppose that there is truth in what Bruno is saying here, but having never driven the car, how does he know that the car won’t explode every race? Reliability can’t be made from data, it’s done by testing out on track, and that’s what HRT completely lacks.

Virgin seem to have sorted their front wing and hydraulic problems, while Lotus have fixed most of their difficulties as well. HRT may be faster, but a string of technical issues is what I think will happen in Bahrain next weekend.

Virgin replace Parente with Soucek

Andy Soucek

Andy Soucek

Virgin Racing have announced that Formula 2 champion Andy Soucek has been signed as their reserve and test driver for the season.

Initially, this role was handed to Alvaro Parente, who is currently racing in the GP2 Series. He was the former 2007 World Series by Renault and 2005 British F3 champion. However, his sponsors, the Portugese tourism institute, pulled out, leaving him with no sponsorship.

This means that Soucek will join Luiz Razia in the reserve squad in Virgin Racing. Soucek said today:

“I am thrilled to be joining Virgin Racing. This role offers me a great opportunity to prepare myself for the Formula 1 environment, which is naturally where my longer-term ambitions lie.”

“I look forward to learning from Timo and Lucas as well as soaking up as much information as possible from engineering meetings and time on the simulator. I would like to thank John Booth (Team Principal) and Nick Wirth (Technical Director) in particular for the faith they have shown in me at this stage in my career.”

Team Principal John Booth added:

“We are delighted to welcome Andy Soucek to Virgin Racing. He had a very good season in Formula 2 last year and a positive F1 test with Williams. He is certainly someone we have been keeping a close eye on, as we believe he has a great deal of potential. We expect him to be a real asset to our development programme with the VR-01 and at the same time he provides the experience we need, should he be required to deputise for one of the race drivers at short notice.”

It has always been my belief that after winning the F2 title last year, Soucek would find a way into F1. The problem is, how is he going to get any track time? Testing concludes after the next 4-day session in Barcelona, so he won’t get any running all year. Hopefully we can watch him develop in this year’s F2 championship.

20th February- Testing results: Button on top in final day at Jerez

Jenson Button in the McLaren in Jerez today

Jenson Button in the McLaren in Jerez today

The Jerez testing fortnight finally ended today. Note the “finally”, because the teams must have been completely exasperated by the horrible weather conditons we have had over the last 2 weeks. Nevertheless, Jenson Button finished the test on a high, as he topped the timesheets today.

The Briton’s time of 1.18.871 was the fastest of the entire testing fortnight,  ahead of Robert Kubica (1.19.114) and Kamui Kobayashi (1.19.188). The weather was excellent today, as shown by the fact that the 3 fastest times of the last 2 weeks were set today. Most of these fast laps were set in the morning, as everyone switched to heavy fuel running in the afternoon.

Unlike the other days, we didn’t have scrambling of strategies to suit the conditionsm as the teams focused mostly on long fuel runs. Therefore, we didn’t see as much action as we have over the last few days. However, one of the main causes of concern was for Mark Webber, who suffered a serious mechanical problem. This has not been explained yet by Red Bull, but his engine was changed as a precautionary measure. Also, the only other red flag today was for Timo Glock, who stopped after another hydraulic problem for the Virgin car.

In fact, before the problem, he was really on the pace, lapping the same as the rest of the midfield, before the hydraulic gremlins showed up again after only 28 laps. Jarno Trulli and the Lotus team fared much better. Although their best lap was 1 second slower than Glock, they managed 141 laps in total, the highest of any driver today.

The rest of the paddock all were as solid as Lotus. Jaime Alguersuari got in 139 laps, followed closely by Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso (137). Nico Rosberg got 130 laps, while Kubica and Kobayashi managed 117. Otherwise, Button got 108, Webber got 87 and Liuzzi got 80. Over the last 4 days, Nico Hulkenberg has got the most mileage in, with a mammoth 275 laps.

Statistics from the entire test will be up soon.

Today’s times:


Driver Team Car Fastest lap Difference
# of laps
1. J. Button McLaren MP4-25 1.18.871 108
2. R. Kubica Renault R30 1.19.114 +0.243 117
3. K. Kobayashi Sauber C29 1.19.188 +0.317 117
4. A. Liuzzi F. India VJM03 1.19.650 +0.799 80
5. N. Rosberg Mercedes W01 1.20.061 +1.190 130
6. F. Alonso Ferrari F10 1.20.436 +1.565 137
7. J. Alguersuari T. Rosso STR5 1.21.053 +2.182 139
8.9.

10.

11.

M. Webber

N. Hulkenberg

T. Glock

J. Trulli

Red Bull

Williams

Virgin

Lotus

RB6

FW32

VR-01

T127

1.21.194

1.21.919

1.22.433

1.23.470

+2.323

+3.048

+3.562

+4.599

87

137

28

141

Pictures from the test:

18th February- Testing results- Barrichello storms through the rain

Today in Jerez, we again saw the weather hamper runnings, but not without some good news. For example, Barrichello proved he has pace in the Williams, and the Virgin finally got up to speed.

Once again, as the session started at 8, the track was damp and required intermidiates. Unlike the other days, all the teams are pessimistic about the forecast. Inside Ferrari simply says on Twitter: “Nothing new at Jerez: just rain, rain and more rain to come…”

The good news is that Timo Glock was straight out of the pits today in the Virgin, and within half an hour had set 15 laps. But, he speared off at the Michelin corner (turn 2), and the red flags were out while his car was being recovered. When the session resumed, Felipe Massa led the way with a 1.30 time. At 9:00, Heikki Kovalainen made his first laps for Lotus, made 3 installation laps, but failed to set a time, and returned to the pits soon after. Yesterday’s power steering issue had been resolved, so the team were confident. Worryingly enough, Glock’s off was more serious than anticipated, as the doors to the Virgin garage were locked off as the car was taken apart for repairs. He didn’t actually hit anything when he spun, but it is believed thata mechanical problem of some sort caused the spin.

Timo Glock after spinning off

Timo Glock after spinning off

By 9:20, Ferrari were reporting a problem with Massa’s car, saying: “We have a technical issue: the stop will not be short… Nothing serious but it will take time to sort it out.” The rain soon got heavier, and more was forecast for later today. The rain got so heavy that all of the electricity sockets in the media centre lost power, because of electrical problems. Lewis Hamilton made the call for extreme wets at 9:40, and his fastest lap in his 5-lap run was a 1.36, showing how bad the conditions had become. By 10:00, the red flag was shown, not for an incident, but because there was so much standing water on the track. While the teams regrouped, it turned out that there was a problem with Kovalainen’s Lotus. It is unclear what happened, but a picture was taken, so you can see for yourself.

A problem in the Lotus pits

A problem in the Lotus pits

In fact, by 10:30, the weather was so bad the teams couldn’t even practice pit stops. The media centre apparently didn’t even have lighting, the journalist’s laptop lights were the only brightness in the room. Let’s make it clear, though, that this is nowhere near the monsoon we saw at Malaysia last year. Vettel, Kovalainen, Glock and Buemi all went out soon, but didn’t manage much, although Glock and Vettel did get good mileage in the conditions. By 11:30, Glock had finished a 13-lap stint, leaving him with 40 laps already under his belt. Plenty of cars braved the conditions, but few set good lap time, mostly in the 1.35 range. At 11:50, Kovalainen ran off at Turn 3, after an 8-lap run, and got stuck in the gravel. His front wing was badly damaged, so Lotus were forced to evaluate the damage to the car.

Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus being towed after his crash

Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus being towed after his crash

By 12:30, conditions were slightly improving, with no rain falling, but the track still wet and windy. Vitaly Petrov managed a 1.30.6, a good lap in those conditions. Everyone was still on extreme wets at this point. Rubens Barrichello was alternating betwen very fast and very slow laps, getting a 1.27 and a 1.35 in the same 17-lap stint. His best and worst times were 9 seconds apart, showing you how varying the conditions were. It wasn’t the rain that was hampering the team’s efforts, it was the wind. Inside Ferrari reported: “The wind is making the day even more troubled…” The good news was, the track was improving, as Petrov got into the 1.27.8 by 13:00.

By 1, everyone knew that the Lotus would be out of action for the day. Kovalainen was apologetic on his Twitter account, while Mike Gascoyne said: “Slight off for Heikki. Knocked off the front wing. Spare on its way but will not be here until 2am in the morning so no more running today” . “Conditions drying up so a shame not to get any dry running today”. Up to about 14:00, there was little change at Jerez, at the track still wasn’t drying out enough. Paul di Resta handed over his car to Vitantonio Liuzzi at 2, and he got stuck in immidiately, setting a 1.30.6 after 9 laps. Many teams had given up on conditions, such as Ferrari, who decided to practice pitstops, as the Williams crew watched them sometimes.

Pit stop practice for the Williams crew

Pit stop practice for the Williams crew

At 14:30, Timo Glock went out, and was the only man on track for 15 minutes, before Petrov joined him. Glock finished an 8-lap run, his fastest lap being 1.31, and getting up to 46 laps. He pitted, went straight back out, and instantly set a 1.30.4, only 3 seconds behind Barrichello. This pushed them up to 8th in today’s standings. Unfortunately, by 15:00, most of the teams were either practicing pit stops or testing race preparations. While many cars went out at the end for a final run, they were nowhere near the pace they needed, so it was a frustrating end to the day for everyone. Barrcihello’s earlier lap of 1.27.145 was the fastest of the day, followed by Petrov, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, De la Rosa, di Resta, Glock, Liuzzi, Hamilton, Buemi and Kovalainen. Barrichello set the most laps, with 98, while de la Rosa only got in 8 in the morning. Barrichello’s fastest lap meant that 6 different teams have topped the timesheets in as many testing days. This is very good news for this season, even if most of it was in the wet.

The predicted floods never arrived, but it was close to it in the morning. The good news is, better conditions are forecast for tomorrow.

Update: Virgin have released a video of their day in Jerez. Clearly they had nothing better to do while it was wet :P (extreme Virgin joke reference possibility!)

Today’s times:


Driver Team Car Fastest lap Difference
# of laps
1. R. Barrichello Williams FW32 1.27.145 98
2. V. Petrov Renault R30 1.27.828 +0.683 56
3. S. Vettel Red Bull RB6 1.28.162 +1.017 70
4. N. Rosberg Mercedes W01 1.28.515 +1.370 71
5. F. Massa Ferrari F10 1.28.879 +1.734 92
6. P. de la Rosa Sauber C29 1.29.691 +2.546 8
7. P. di Resta Force India VJM03 1.30.344 +3.199 33
8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

T. Glock

V. Liuzzi

L. Hamilton

S. Buemi

H. Kovalainen

Virgin

F. India

McLaren

T.Rosso

Lotus

VR-01

VJM03

MP4-25

STR5

T127

1.30.476

1.30.666

1.31.633

1.32.678

1.33.554

+3.331

+3.521

+4.488

+5.533

+6.409

72

24

57

57

30

Pictures from today’s test:

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