The recent absence of Virgin Racing’s Nick Wirth at grand prix could be of real concern but I am happy to report that the car designer is back at the office working his tail off on the 2011 car and not laying in a ditch somewhere, kidnapped or on garden leave. Telling AUTOSPORT, team CEO Graeme Lowdon says things are progressing nicely but the team will also field a few more upgrades to this years car.
According to Lowdon, the CFD-only gambit used by Virgin Racing this year has a knock-on effect in that milling parts or upgrades is not as expensive as it once was in the wind tunnel-driven development program. Makes sense until you get to that critical question, did the new bits work? No one really knows until Friday’s FP1.
So how is the 2011 car coming?
“It’s very well on, there’s a lot of things getting machined, manufactured and delivered. It’s a huge job building the car in the first place but it certainly needs Nick’s full attention.”
That’s good news as the Virgin seemed to be progressing nicely throughout the year but there is little hiding the fact that they need to make a big deduction from the first year running in anger. The car has to take a significant leap in performance if they want to stay in the same postal code as Lotus and remain on target for Toro Ross and Sauber.
With a contract in hand for Timo Glock (a good move by the way), the team says they have an option on Lucas di Grassi and if I’m honest, there may be some evaluation in the weeks ahead. With Belgian driver Jerome d’Ambrosio and Brazilian driver Luiz Razia waiting in the wings, Lucas is going to have to really bring serious cash or serious skills in the coming months. Lowdon says:
“The key thing for the team point of view is just to make sure we have the right mix and the right level of technical feedback moving forward. We’ll see how things go over the next few weeks.”
I am eager to see what development changes Nick Wirth makes to the 2011 car as lessons learned from 2010. One would presume a sharp character like Wirth would have seen clear opportunities for improvement and the CFD machines must be working overtime to create what should be a far superior car to this years offering. Is it worth criticizing? No, because it was always going to be a learning year and so will next year. The litmus test will remain Lotus Racing and with their new Renault/Red Bull supplier deal, one wonders if Virgin won’t be on the raw end of that test in 2011.