Virgin missing 12 liters? How is that possible?

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Watching the Speed TV coverage of Free Practice 2 here in the States, I was intrigued by Westbury Gillett’s additional information on the request by Virgin Racing for a larger fuel cell. The team asked for dispensation from the FIA to allow them to add a larger fuel cell as reported by AUTOSPORT.

“We recently applied to the FIA for permission to change the size of the fuel tank on the grounds of reliability and we are pleased that the FIA has granted us this permission,” said Wirth

“It has become clear during pre-season testing and our debut race in Bahrain that our fuel tank capacity is marginal and if not addressed there is the possibility that fuel pick-up could become an issue in certain circumstances.

“At the time the design of the tank was locked down in June 2009, its capacity was determined by a number of factors, some of which have since changed, and the tank capacity now needs to be increased accordingly. We thank the FIA for permitting this change, which we expect to introduce in the early part of the European season.”

Gillett said during a live broadcast that the team felt they were 12 liters shy of what their tank should hold to give a comfortable margin to finish a race. This lead to questions of Cosworth’s fuel mileage consumption rate and other factors that are pure speculation. As Virgin Racing’s Nick Wirth said, things have changed since they designed their car and I am bereft of the logic that would have caught them out as the rules were set many months ago and the problem seemed to only show itself during the Bahrain weekend?

No refueling has been agreed upon since at least May of 2009 and the Cosworth engine supply and performance parameters have been solid since late summer of 2009 according to my research. If the Cosworth unpredictably turned out to be fuel hungry, would Lotus, Williams or HRT be facing the same issue? What would have changed to create a less fuel efficient car that was not exposed as such during the Barcelona testing?

I am certainly not an engineer so this head-scratching issues is above my station but the simple question remains; how could Virgin have missed a volume of 12 liters (3.1 US gallons)? That’s a lot of fuel folks. Any ideas? Hints? Insights or suggestions?

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