F1 2010 season preview: Virgin

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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.


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


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?

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

Total Voters: 802

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See all the articles in the F1 Fanatic 2010 Season Preview

2010 F1 season

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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47 comments on “F1 2010 season preview: Virgin”

  1. 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.

    1. … and then at the end of the season – wearing the Air Asia flight attendant uniform because of the lost bet w/ Tony Fernandes ;-)

      1. Will Keith be posting the images from that event? :D

  2. 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).

    1. Accidental Mick
      10th March 2010, 17:01

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

      1. 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…

        1. But it’s ok, the therapy helped right?

  3. 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.

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

  4. 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.

    1. none of the teams on the grid have the money to be the next Toyota :P

  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. 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?

    1. Another one: Go Timo! Drive the wings off of it… oh, you already did that, sorry.

      1. Hahahahaha! Brilliant!

    2. I sure hope they don’t add that shark fin, it’s dreadful

  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.

    1. 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…

      1. 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!

        1. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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!

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

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

  12. Virgin Racing is a good joke, too…

  13. 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. 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.

  16. Eje Gustafsson
    10th March 2010, 18:13

    Like all the other new teams I don’t believe any of them will be able to fight for points. There are 4 new cars but only 2 more point paying position. Just look at Force India how long did it take them to finally score a point? And when they started they where no 4-5 seconds behind the leaders.
    Also considering that I don’t think either Lotus or Virgin on top of it have actually managed to drive a full race distance without mechanical failures. HRT haven’t yet turned a lap. If for the first half of the year these teams manage to get 1 car each running full race distance they will be doing good.
    Maybe second half they might actually manage to get both cars full distance and close the gap to just a second behind but still would take a lot to get into points. Maybe now if one or two drivers from the new team try to play bowling with their car in the first corner and create a big pilup crash they might take out enough cars that the remaining car could get to a points paying position..
    I’m glad to see new teams but somewhat discourage with how far behind they are and the amount of technical problems they have had. Hopefully they can fix both fairly quickly… I want to be wrong.

    1. Force India weren’t a new team, they were Spyker with a new paint job. The VJM-01 was basically equivalent to the Spyker F8-VII.

      The last time a team came in having designed a car from scratch…well, it was probably Toyota. Super Aguri updated a 2002 Arrows (and were four seconds off the pace with it), that’s sort of a halfway house.

      1. True that Force India wasn’t a new team. But Spyker, Midland, Jordan was always helplessly behind. Jordan in 05 scored 12 points 11 was from the horrible US race during the tire wars (they where 1 lap down on Ferrari and 1 lap up on Mindardi), They scored 1 pt in Spa that year only 13 car finished race Mindardis two included 1 and 2 lap down on the Jordans ;). 06 as Midland no points, 07 as Spyker 1 pt in Japan 13 cars finished race. 08 Force India took over. No points. 09 Finally break through again 13 points (8+5).
        Force India at least never been so far off as 4-5 seconds of the leaders. Anyone seriously believe any of these new 3 teams will score a point at all this year? I think only like Spyker, Midland, Jordan these new teams will only manage if there is any major crash, lot of DNF’s during a race.

        1. 4-5 seconds isn’t actually that much? It’s only in the last few years that it has been this close! go back to 96-7 and you start seeing gaps of 6 seconds. Really these new teams are doing very well, considerably that they are starting from scratch and that most ideas that where designed to help them got rejected by…. wait for it, Our beloved Ferrari…

          1. Eje Gustafsson
            11th March 2010, 16:44

            But back then there was also the 107% rule to prevent cars having to big a speed difference. In the last 4-5 years the difference not been that much and the last 2 years most of the time the entire grid is within 1 second of each other. But it looks we are now back to the 96-97 with bigger differences so a 107% rule IMO should be seriously considered.

  17. No doubt the accuracy of the CFD software will improve as it is developed through the season. Data collected through the season can be incorporated into the CFD model and help refine the boundary conditions etc.

    CFD actually has the potential to accommodate situations that can’t easily be modeled in a wind tunnel, such as cross winds, aerodynamics in corners and under braking, and, maybe irrelevantly for Virgin this year, during overtaking. CFD is used by all the mature (i.e. non-virgin…) teams to supplement wind tunnel testing for these reasons, and I imagine the limitation of a CFD only approach is that the CFD model tuning data is only available from the race. Therefore the assumption by Virgin is that modern CFD is well enough developed to not require major tuning. We’ll find out soon enough how much this approach is, er, Wirth.

  18. 10th. Best of the new teams.

  19. So Tomorrow, are we going to hear Keith’s Predictions? Now that all 12 teams have been previewed.

  20. As someone pointed out at another article, there’s a piece on James Allen’s sitye and that really made me think about these guys and their chances.

    Basically Wirth said that they have a four second slower car because they dont have years experience ín designing a F1 car.

    But that their upgrade proces via CFD will be much faster and more efficient – no waste on daily (!) 30.000 eu models for windtunneltesting!

    I just hope they beat Kolles – that arrogant p….

  21. I think Virgin are pretty good prepared. They have more sponsors than some of the established teams (not sure about how much those are bringing in), the car is pretty well developed and if the CFD is working, it offers a lot of development potential.

    I hope they get the reliability under control.

  22. I think they’ll be the best of the new teams. If CFD doesn’t work out at first, the model will probably be improved through data collection to the point where it could rival the wind-tunnel, and since that isn’t 100% reliable a guide anyway, the old-fashioned approach doesn’t hold as much of an advantage as might be thought.

    That is, of course, if reliability is fixed.

  23. I think Glock is a talented driver but has he got enough experience? His result with a decent car (toyota) were kind of hit-and-miss. It’s a huge challenge for the guy and if he can pull it off it’s going to boost his carreer. I just think the’re not fast enough yet. They might be faster than HRT because Glock has some experience and they did some testing. However they didn’t seem reliable at all and the pace.. Well.. Not quite fast enough. I don’t know Di Grassi very well but he’s a rookie, I don’t expect much from him yet. It might be 2 years too early for Glock to take on such a huge mission. I mean, he was in a decent Toyota and he’s kind of taking a huge step back from the midfield to the back of the court. It’s going to bring him huge experience I think. Let’s hope it pays off! I think 11th.

  24. Prisoner Monkeys
    10th March 2010, 22:23

    I hope Virgin do well, if only to stick it to the likes of Ferrari by proving that a CFD-only design is feasible.

  25. “Strengths (…) have the best-looking car on the grid”. F1 is not a beauty contest. I expect them to fight with HRT for the last place. I won’t be surprised if they get it.

    1. True, but if I were trying to get a sponsor on board I’d rather show them this than an HRT.

      1. Yes, i think the Marketing of Branson/Virgin is showing some effect here.

        It sure is part of the succes of a team, to get sponsors on board – even critical if you follow the thoughts of Eddie Jordan on commenting the new outfits on the BBC.

        For me the car looks great, the colouring is nice and i like the motive livening it up. Their website is pretty nice and those Jackets for as team outfit look mean.

  26. I like the look of the car and wish them well…

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