Glock doubts Virgin will reach midfield in 2011

2011 F1 season preview

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#24Timo Glock
#25Jerome d’Ambrosio
Form 2006-2010:n/a, n/a, n/a, n/a, 12
2010 points:0

Virgin are the third of the ‘sophomore teams’ looking to catch up to the midfield this year.

But having driven the new MVR-02 Timo Glock has doubts about their chances of catching the likes of Sauber and Toro Rosso.

Speaking to Reuters yesterday he said: “I think we will have to wait for the bigger upgrade which comes to Turkey where everyone will bring an update.

“As far as I see it at the tests, we are still away from the midfield teams and [getting into] Q2 will be difficult. Especially Toro Rosso picked up quite a lot of speed over the winter and they look very strong. Sauber as well.

“They were all the teams where I thought we could catch up a bit more but they made quite a big step and we still have to make a big one. It looks like we are a bit behind the target at the moment.”

Glock was unable to drive the car in the final test of the year as he was recovering from surgery but he should be on the grid in Melbourne.

Another year toiling away at the back of the field would have an obvious effect Glock’s morale. He drove some excellent races last year but never even had a sniff of a points finish.

He’s joined by new team mate Jerome d’Ambrosio this year, who impressed the team in his Friday practice appearances last year.

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin, Barcelona, 2011

While the MVR-02 may be lacking in performance, the reliability of their car looks more promising than it did 12 months ago.

Reliability was a serious problem last year for Virgin, who had more mechanical failures in races than any of their rivals.

They seem to have improved on that front heading into the new season, having covered almost the same distance with their new car in testing as Lotus did, despite not running it at the first test.

The absence of KERS, though not good for performance, could help them ensure early-season reliability.

Virgin are manufacturing their own transmission, as they did last year, while fellow 2010 entrants Lotus and HRT have switched to Red Bull and Williams units respectively.

What is also unchanged is the team’s radical approach to car design. Technical director Nick Wirth continues to shun wind tunnels and develop the car entirely using Computational Fluid Dynamics – a significant cost saving for the team.

While he retains a high level of confidence in the approach but other teams (the wealthiest of which split their development work 50-50 between CFD and wind tunnels) remain sceptical.

Virgin have attracted increased backing from Russian sports car firm Marussia Motors, who have invested in the team. Marussia president Nikolai Fomenko is named as Virgin’s ‘engineering director’.

This will hopefully put this team of modest resources on a sounder financial footing. That may prove important, as their prospects of finishing in the top ten this year, and therefore earning prize money, already look quite slim.

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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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30 comments on “Glock doubts Virgin will reach midfield in 2011”

  1. Looks like Virgin really is on a long term project there. I take it there prime consern was reliability, as that is the only thing that might bring them far enough to finish ahead of anyone in the championship.
    But it sounds like Glock summed up their speed pretty well there, it might be coming in Turkey!

    1. To finish first, first you have to finish, Vettel learned that last year. Reliability cost them dearly last year so it’s right that it’s their top priority, work out the mechanics of the car and then bring the updates.

      1. I do think this was the right way to go for them. Just a shame they did not get a bit more speed into that car al the same.

      2. Vettel learned that last year… by winning the WDC? :P
        But point taken.

        1. By almost losing it, I’d say ;)

        2. I think the lesson he learnt would have been to finish first when you do finish!

          1. The Jim Clark method of driving.

  2. I think the Toro Rossos are looking good, obviously aiming to distance themselves from those at the rear of the grid. And apparently the Saubers look tidy on track according to Barrichello. Lotus aswell might be a mid-field contender. The mid-field battle this year is going to be a cracker.
    And i guess its always interesting to watch those at the back of the pack sometimes have more interesting and overtaking filled races than those at the front.

  3. Virgin’s best chance lies with reliability. It’s what they focused on for 2011. So while Team Lotus might have a faster car, it’s not going to be for much if the car keeps breaking.

  4. They’ve also managed to snag CNBC as “Business Media Partner”. So they’re really working on the long-term survival as much as anything. Good for them.

    1. Taking a leaf from Fernandes’ book with CNN, I see.

  5. Joining of Marussia Motors is good for the team as we can see that in 2011 we will have 2 teams who will have the backing of car manufacturer which may be a good sign for 2013 when new engine rule is applied.But still using CFD is the worst of the idea.They need to get over it.

  6. If they’re bringing in backers, it could mean that they’re able to spend that bit more this year and id fancy they bring a few more upgrades then last year. Team Lotus seem to have pulled away from Virgin although its a case of speed against reliability at the moment, and the winner is whoever manages to amend their short-comings first. I think in that respects its Lotus who will remain the best of the ‘new’ teams, but id fancy Virgin to be ahead of HRT come seasons end. But we’l see.

    Good luck to them.

    1. They better be in front of HRT at the end of the year. HRT is a disaster of an F1 team, and if they lose to them 2 years in a row, then it will be hard for F1 fans to take them seriously.

  7. Seems to me that relying solely on CFD technology is hampering them badly. It may be cheap, but it’s certainly not as effective.

    1. Sooner or later they’ll reach a critical point – either the CFD-only approach is working and helping them move forward, or it isn’t and they’ll have to move to a more conventional approach if they ever want to move forward.

  8. After the monumental mistake of not designing a big enough fuel cell last year I hope they will be on a more even playing field. I can’t see things at the back being a whole lot different between these and HRT but at least if they’re closely matched it will be a battle within itself.

    One thing that springs to mind…all the front running teams have KERS so with this in mind could we be seeing alot more blue flags this year when that extra 80bhp (I think?) is deployed?

  9. The one thing I was interested in, all three teams suffered issues with the transmission and hydraulics last year.

    So HRT have gone with williams (one of the most solid units out there), Lotus have gone with Redbull, and Virgin havent changed.

    I am yet to be convinced they wont suffer the same problems this year too.

  10. They will have a better car this year, and a better pace of development. This I say on the basis of the interview with Wirth at Autosport International in january.
    He said that CFD would only become better as time progresses. Furthermore he told that Virgin had now gathered enough data from the track to know what to think about the numbers that the CFD gives them. This leads to more accurate and better results using the technology.

    1. A race circuit isn’t neccessarily a reliable environment to gather data for CFD as their are so many factors that can affect your data, such as wind speeds and direction, temperatures and pressures. And these can change over a single lap and several laps.

  11. CFD is just a tool for testing the potential benefits of new designs, it’s up to designers to invent worthwhile things to test. Using the Met Office’s supercomputer to CFD a brick won’t make it more aerodynamic.

  12. Virgin and HRT both applied for the sport and were assigned a place on the grid, when there was still talk about that Budget cap. Both teams had their finances based on that. Apart from Lotus, both Virgin and HRT are simply still lacking the necessary funds to close the gap to the midfield.
    The moment either of those two teams finds the necessary funds, we’ll see them improve their laptimes and overall performance. Until then, it will remain a struggle at the back of the grid for both of them.

    1. But if HRT had the money Virgin has they will do wonders.

  13. Wind tunnels have become modern day dinosaurs. They are very large and very expensive to run, and have little use for anything else except for what they currently do.

    Do you have to inform your local power station every time you want to turn your fan on?

  14. I really hope that driving for Virgin doesn’t damage Timo Glock’s career. He really should be in a better car anyway, and the danger of another year stuck at the back is that he could get forgotten about by the bigger teams.

  15. I’ll be watching the Mid to back of the grid battles mostly this year, I think.

  16. Wirth is just a difficult man. It won’t cost the team a fortune to lease a wind tunnel to validate their CFD results.
    Saying the performance of the car tallies with the CFD prediction doesn’t mean anything.
    It only just shows that your CFD model is accurate but your designs are deficient.

    All the teams know CFD is the future, but they know that future is still way ahead.
    Sauber have their Albert1 and Albert2 very expensive multiprocessor supercomputers. Albert1 cost Sauber over 20 Million dollars. I don’t know how much Albert2 cost BMW but likely to be more expensive.
    Despite that investment they still use wind tunnels for speed and accuracy in verifying promising designs, while their CFD is used to analyse preliminary design concepts and eliminating failed concepts.

    Virgin can’t afford to be stuck at the back for too long. It isn’t the first time Wirth has had a back of the grid team. But he has to stop being a dreamer and do the sensible thing. It won’t be funny if HRT, who have built their car from parts clobbered together from different garage sales, end up being just as fast as the Virgin.

    I just wonder how long before they start to question this partnership.

  17. HRT has a william’s rearend? Is there hope for them yet. I bet its not that tight rearend that Williams is showing off this year. That kind of sounded obscene didn’t it?

  18. I think Virgin was/is hampered by
    unreliability; more driving would’ve meant more data to build your CFD models on
    stupid fuel tank issue; if they didn’t need to redesign their car midseason then they would’ve had more time for real development
    Glock not being able to drive at last test; d’Ambrosio is probably a very good driver, but as I’ve posted before, we saw with HRT what experience can do. HRT gained a lot of time, only by getting more experience in setting up the car. At Virgin they still have to wonder how much of the deficit to the others is about the car, the set up or maybe even the driver. It’s ‘only’ one test, but they did miss out on a lot of data.

    All these things multiply the difficulties with relying on CFD only. One day at a windtunnel would probably give them a lot more understanding of the car, but I still like their unconventional approach and applaud them for sticking to it!

  19. I think Virgin problems doesn’t have anything to do with CFD. With this technology they made a car faster than Dallara HRT with a wind tunnel.

    They had reliability problems related to hidraulic and “how to make your car work properly” but nothing to do with speed, aerodynamics, etc…

    So, the real problem of Virgin is not solved I think. HRT solved them last year, and now they have last year william’s technology (no problems with gearbox again).

    I won’t bet for Virgin winning HRT. But I have to say that HRT marketing is worse and so HRT is like the worst team. Well, I’m not really sure because that marketing is making everybody speak about HRT all the time. You can see the amount of comments in their news here.

    Anyway, the best luck to Virgin.

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