Di Grassi completes Virgin's full race distance
Lucas Di Grassi has secured the first race finish for Virgin Racing. Timo Glock on the other hand did not make it to the finish due to a driver mistake. With reliability now improving the team can start looking forward to improve its pace.
The temperature in ‘the crib’ was an unfriendly 40 degrees celsius, with humidity running at 50%, and the only creature comfort Lucas had was a drinks bottle full of warm water to draw on. So he focused all his efforts on underlining why Virgin Racing were the best of the new teams today, putting two seconds a lap between him and the nearest contender – the Lotus Racing car of Jarno Trulli.
This race is arduous in the extreme and Lucas had to work doubly hard to get to the end of it after he lost his front wing end plate as a result of an unsuccessful overtaking bid by Heikki Kovalainen. In the second half of the race, the team had to curb his racing instincts by reminding him of some well-rehearsed fuel-saving tactics designed to ensure that the VR-01s make it to the finish.
On the other side of the garage Timo was less lucky today. He was going great guns at the start, but was losing time behind Jarno Trulli. So he seized the moment and tried to overtake, but locked his rear wheels into the corner, the back end of his VR-01 stepped out and he struck Jarno’s car, ending his own race just two laps in.
Nevertheless, everyone at Virgin Racing savoured the moment this evening after months of blood, sweat and tears. Next race, we want to see both cars get to the finish.
Timo and Lucas are now Bicester-bound. They’ll be on the next jetplane out of Kuala Lumpur and will head straight for the Wirth Research Simulators to clock up some testing mileage in readiness for their next challenge - the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
Lucas di Grassi, #25: “It was a very tough race today - physically and mentally - but I’m so happy to bring the Virgin Racing car home to the finish. I had a great start and was able to make up five places on the opening lap. We had very good early pace and continued to be strong, despite losing my front wing end-plate when Heikki tried to overtake me. We had a good pit stop and we were still looking very strong in the second part of the race. We were well ahead of the other new teams, which meant that we could afford to ease off a little to make sure nothing got in the way of our result today. It has been a long wait and we’ve had some tough times in the past few months, but we know that we’re making progress and we can go on to achieve better things. Today showed that we are truly competitive and it’s a great feeling that our fight has really started now. Timo’s DNF was a real shame but I think we can start to look forward together to some great racing now.”
Timo Glock, #24: “I had a pretty good start and the first laps were quite fun with a lot of fights going on. I dropped behind Jarno and in general I was quite a lot quicker than him. I tried to overtake but locked the rears and for some reason the anti-stall didn’t kick in. Unfortunately I hit Jarno and it was my mistake. But it's great that Lucas finished the race, and ahead of Lotus, which is good for the team. I hope that in the next race we can get both cars to the finish.”
Nick Wirth, Technical Director: “Finally getting one of our cars to see the chequered flag is a great reward for everyone at Virgin Racing and Wirth Research and I want to thank all of our partners, sponsors and supporters for their patience and understanding during the last few months. The race was quite stressful on the pit wall as we left the grid assuming that it was going to rain. It took a little while for us to be really sure that it wasn’t and then, being mindful of our fuel tank limitations, it was really just a case of the team and Lucas deploying our well-practised fuel-saving techniques to excellent effect."
"Timo was very fired up for the race and it was unfortunate that he didn’t manage to get a finish but his time will come very soon. This weekend has been, from start to finish, a clear step forward and comes as a result of diligent hard work from a great many people and I dedicate this result to them. We’ve come in for heavy criticism for our radical low-cost design approach and relative inexperience in F1, which makes our performance throughout the weekend all the more satisfying. Finishing our first Grand Prix as the leading new team will give us lots of information and we’ve got some clear direction on issues to address for Shanghai, which will allow us to perform better all round, without distracting us too much from the bigger Barcelona upgrade. So once again, well done to everyone at Virgin Racing and we now looking forward to building on this platform.”