Poor reliability leaves Virgin last in championship

2010 F1 season review

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Timo Glock, Virgin, Interlagos, 2010

Virgin were the first of the three new teams to begin testing their car. Despite the head start, unreliability dogged the VR-01 and that was ultimately the reason why they ended the season ranked dead last.

There is no prize money for 11th or 12th places, only pride to be salvaged. Having gone into the season talking up their chances of beating Lotus to tenth, finishing last behind HRT was clearly not part of Virgin’s plan.

The damage was done in the opening six races, where Virgin only got their cars to the finish three times from a possible 12. At Australia and Monaco both the red and black cars were halted by technical problems while HRT scooped the extra 14th-placed finishes that made the difference between the two at the end of the season.

This was not necessarily a reflection on Virgin’s pace which was always better than HRT’s and often compared well with Lotus’s.

Virgin team stats 2010

Best race result (number)14th (2)
Best grid position (number)16th (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other)17 (13/4)
Laps completed (% of total)1637 (72.5%)
Laps led (% of total)0 (0%)
Championship position (2009)12th (n/a)
Championship points (2009*)0 (n/a)
*using 2010 system

Virgin’s other problem in the first half of the season was an embarrassing one that belied the rebranded Manor Motorsport team’s shortage of experience at this level.

The car couldn’t carry enough fuel to get to the end of a race without the driver having to slow down to save petrol.

A revised version of the car, dubbed the ‘limo’ as its wheelbase had to be increased to accommodate the larger tank, was readied for the European season.

Unfortunately, due to the air travel disruption caused by the notorious Icelandic volcano, only Timo Glock had the new car in Spain while Lucas di Grassi had to wait another two races for his.

The VR-01’s unique selling point was that it had been designed entirely using computer modelling and simulation. Although the team continued to upgrade the car throughout the season Lotus usually qualified ahead of them. The car enjoyed much better pace on the harder tyres than the softer compounds, which hurt the team in qualifying.

Nonetheless the team made some appearances in the midfield, a highlight being Timo Glock’s exceptional drive in Singapore, keeping the likes of Adrian Sutil’s Force India behind him for several laps. His race was later ruined when the safety car came out at an inopportune moment.

Reliability improved in the second half of the season but was by no means perfected. As their rivals also saw the chequered flag more frequently, Virgin’s opportunities to finish high enough in races to move ahead of HRT in the championship were scarce.

Their best chance came at Korea. Glock, excelling as usual in wet conditions, was running in 12th place when he was hit by the out-of-control Sebastien Buemi.

Team mate di Grassi had fewer opportunities to shine, but got close to Glock in qualifying on occasions.

Life got more difficult for him at the end of the season when he was called upon to surrender his running in first practice to Jerome d’Ambrosio. This was an especially tough call given that di Grassi was making his first appearance at several of the flyaway venues and could have done with the track time.

The nadir of his season was without doubt his monumental crash at Suzuka’s 130R while driving to the grid, ending his participation in the Grand Prix before the race had even started.

With only Glock turning out for the team in the post-season Pirelli test, di Grassi’s future at Virgin looks uncertain.

Virgin boss Richard Branson lost his bet with Lotus’s Tony Fernandes about which of their teams would finish highest.

They are both winners as far as the publicity stunt goes, but the bald fact is no-one enters F1 to finish last, however inexpensively they are running their team. Despite the big-name backer Virgin Racing operated on a shoestring budget compared to even their midfield rivals this year.

The recent news that Russian sports car company Marussia had invested in Virgin, and a major new sponsor had arrived in the shape of Qnet, are welcome signs for the team.

But with Lotus expecting a leap forward next year with Renault engines and Red Bull technology, Nick Wirth’s CFD wizardry needs to produce a faster and more reliable VR-02 for them to keep pace with their fellow 2010 newcomers.

Virgin’s 2010 season in pictures

2010 F1 season review

Browse all 2010 F1 season review articles

Images © Virgin Racing

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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41 comments on “Poor reliability leaves Virgin last in championship”

  1. Good to see these team reviews. Virgin don’t seem to be too enthusiastic about F1 to be honest. While Lotus have made news every month regarding their new recruitments, Virgin have been very quiet. For 2011, they will finish ahead of HRT for sure, and Timo Glock might convert some opportunities to finish ahead of Lotus in few races.

    It is unfortunate to see a driver of Glock’s caliber in a team like Virgin. This year, he was the best of all the 8 drivers who drove for the new teams. I would rate him better than the 2 STR drivers as well. Better than De La Rosa, Liuzzi as well. He would do well in a team like Renault or Williams alongside Kubica or Rubens. Unfortunately, money dictates the decisions for these teams. He is contracted to Virgin for 2011 anyways. I hope he gets into atleast Force India in 2012.

    1. Glock had some really good moments and I’d have loved to see him in a Renault or a Force India in races like Shanghai and Singapore.

      1. Glock in a FI would be a good shout, but I hope he goes to Renault!!

    2. Richard Branson appeared to be the least enthusiastic member of the Virgin team, having spent more time in the other teams’ garages and team spots on the grid than his own!!!

  2. I guess the prize for “Best Livery Since Lotus’ Famous JPS Black and Gold” will have to be a consolation prize, then.

    1. I liked Virgin’s a lot, but I’d give that trophy to Renault this year – great to see the proper yellow and black back. I never liked the halfway house Mild Seven/Renault one in the mid-2000s, and the less said about the ING monstrosities the better.

      1. Agreed, the Renault livery was stunning. Not too keen on the red endplates though…

      2. I agree: the Renaults looked awesome this year. Proper racing car colours, whatever that means.

        1. Pfft, wasn’t a fan of the yellow and black Renaults. Took me a long time to warm to it and I’ve never been more than lukewarm about it. The Virgin Livery was pretty damn awesome though…

        2. Agreeing with me is always an appropriate reaction on F1 Fanatic, even if you’re not sure why :)

      3. I know ING did nothing for renult.
        infact it made them worse really.

    2. I like their livery a lot as well, although the Renault and Lotus look pretty good as well this year.

      I also liked their clothing range / team gear with the leather jackets and jeans. That really ranks amongst the best in the paddock for years.

      1. Lotus was the worst looking :S

      2. leather jackets no what if it rains, but they were pretty cool like

    3. The chrome of the McLaren was the best, especially in Singapore and Abu Dhabi

      1. *throws up in mouth*

        Chrome. Is. For. Bath. Taps. Not. F1. Cars.

        Can you confirm you understood that message?

        1. Agreed, the chrome is disgusting, especially with the day-glo orange. Worst colour scheme ever, and that includes the pink Brabham!

          1. The chrome was absolutely foul. It just looks cheap. It’s quite a shame that such a beautifully shaped car had such an awful livery plonked on it. At least the 09 shape was ugly so it was a match made in heaven :P

        2. Naa man, chrome is for anything. Can’t believe u’s two don’t like it! Am i the only one that does?? haha

          Keith, help me out here….please??

          1. The Mild Seven Renault livery was the best I’ve ever seen. This year’s yellow and black Renault looks ok, but not that good.

          2. I agree with you JT 19 for what its worth! I don’t understand people dogging the McLaren livery, I think its awesome.

          3. There are plenty of people who like the current McLaren livery. Personally it is probably my favourite of the current grid.

          4. No I’am with you as well. I love that McLaren livery. I rarely think about liveries, but sometimes when I see some shots of the McLarens I think ”Damn, That car looks awesome” and that for me only happens with current McLarens.

          5. I think the Mclaren livery is absolutely awesome as well. And I prefer the Renault livery of 05 and 06 over this year’s taxi combination of colours.

          6. Finally, sume guys with taste lol :-D

            I thought that 04, 05, 06 Renault looked great! Sky Blue n Yellow is a must win.

          7. That chrome McLaren looks good, especially in Singapore and after the floodlights went on in Abu Dhabi.

          8. Not my favourite, but I prefer this than the orange livery.

          9. yep chrome is cool. its good to go against the grain of plain colours. when you can have shiny effect!

      2. On this years McLaren the chrome seemed to work rather okay, indeed, under lights it was very nice – also because it made the red on the “shark/anvil-fin” stand out – I liked it a lot less last year.

        Virgin was cool, although I think the flower thing didn’t really translate so well, it looked like they just made it wriggly lines, mostly. But I agree, their team outfits were very good – almost stuff you could see someone actually wearing, very unlike the lotus stuff.

        Renaults start of season livery was a bit too waspish, but later, with the big HP and renault logo’s on the engine cover to replace the wasp stripes there, it was great to see.

        1. For me the only car that came close to the JPS Lotus livery was the Mclaren MP4/12 which was the first iteration of the current Mclaren livery. I remember I was absolutely blown away when I first saw it and it was the first ever desktop picture I had in Windows 95 (despite the fact I was a Schumi fan).

          I think there is too much red on the current Mclaren. I prefered more silver/black with just small flashes of red (like on the anvil but not the front/rear wings or side-pods) – I think the more shiny chrome finish does look good though.

  3. All the teams uses CFD in their cars, but the fact is the Constructure Champion Red Bull’s Adrian Newey still have a board in his office where he can draw, I wonder whether Virgin Racing had that in their office. With new sponsor I think this is the best team out of the three that made debut in 2010 is looking strong to perform well in 2011.

    1. Yes, all the teams use CFD, but the Virgin is the only car designed EXCLUSIVELY using CFD. All other cars are designed using a combination of CFD and manual processes.

      1. Yep, there is probably a very good reason why the other teams don’t rely exclusively on CFD…. they want to win and not end up last like Virgin.

  4. Alongside Sauber, Virgin has to be the season’s bluff for me. They had that kickass livery, an interesting pair of drivers, the balls to put a CFD-only car in the grid, more testing time than the other newbies… Their approach seemed so fresh, somehow. And yet they embarrassed themselves even more than HRT (the fuel tank size, pleaseee!!)

    A shame to see Glock stuck in such a car, and as of DiGrassi, I just don’t think he is proven himself worthy of a seat in 2011.

    I hate to agree with Bernie on this but if they don’t make it to Bahrain I for one won’t miss them…

    1. Why Sauber? I thought they had a great second half to the season, only reason they didn’t finish races in first half of season was because Ferrari messed up their engines! Ferrari had to modify their own.

      1. Sauber did ok, but the reality is a season in which they are only able to manage a single top 6 finish can hardly be deemed a success

        1. Probably because of their pre-season testing pace.

        2. With their car, a Top 6 finish was very unlikely. Of course, not having a good enough car isn’t exactly a sign of success, but it’s not like they had the budgets or preparation time of any of the teams that beat them.

          1. Didn’t help that they too hardly finished a race in the first half of the year with even one car, let alone both.

      2. Sauber barely made the grid. That’s a success to me.

        They desperately need a sponsor for next season although.

  5. Great article keith ! I think these new investoers from Russia and the new sponsor will boost the team in order to stop ferrari guys and Bernie from easily critisizing the new teams. LEt’s not forget that McLaren, Williams and ..well Red Bull became what they are fighting in the last posotions for many years..
    Does anybody know the latest news about the actual Lotus Group involving in F1, I read somewhere that they will compete in Indy, does this vanish any chance of seeing the actual Lotus Brand back to F1??

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