Virgin ready to race after eventful three week break

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

The Virgin Racing team head to Barcelona in Spain this week for Round 5 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. This race marks the start of F1’s European season, which is typically an opportunity for teams to regroup after the challenge of the four long-haul rounds that open the season and embark on the next phase of the Championship with renewed vigour.

In theory the teams should have enjoyed the benefits of a three-week break between the Chinese and Spanish Grands Prix, however the Icelandic volcano had other plans for the sport. Many Virgin Racing team personnel were stranded in Shanghai for up to five additional days, which put paid to the carefully laid plans to bring much-anticipated modifications to the VR-01, which relied on three full weeks of manufacture, homologation and race preparation. As a consequence, Virgin Racing will debut only one revised chassis in the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, which Timo Glock will put through its paces.

The Grand Prix is held at the Circuit de Catalunya, around 25km outside of the city of Barcelona. The track is something of a home from home for the F1 fraternity since, before the advent of the more cost-conscious era of Formula One, the teams spent many weeks of the year testing at the facility. The track has staged the Spanish Grand Prix every year since 1991 and is a popular venue for teams and drivers, thanks to its demanding and varied layout, which throws up a bit of everything. It’s a track where every aspect of set-up needs to be right in order to be quick. The long pit straight demands good aero efficiency, there are some very challenging slow speed corners, off-camber and on-camber, and a couple of high-speed corners. A car that performs well in Barcelona tends be competitive at many of the tracks on the F1 calendar.

Timo Glock, Race Driver #24
“The last few weeks haven’t exactly gone according to plan thanks to the Icelandic volcano, but what this has enabled us to do is draw a line under the disappointment of Shanghai and focus on better things ahead. We have taken a good hard look at the first four races and now have a very clear picture of where things have gone well for us and where we need to improve. It’s a shame that we couldn’t bring two new modified chassis to Spain, because we would have had two sets of data to work from, but we will work with what we have and hope that it brings the kind of results we are hoping for. Most of the drivers know this track really well, because we’re all used to testing and racing here so often in the past. To have a really quick lap here you need to have a car with good downforce as you need to have the confidence to commit to the very high speed corners. I have done some work in the simulator in preparation for this race and we have a good idea of what to expect from the modified chassis, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we shape up when we hit the track in Barcelona this week.”

Lucas di Grassi, Race Driver #25
“Race day was tough for us in China, but we have to stay focused on what we achieved prior to that and the way we have been improving through the race weekends. We had been getting on top of our reliability problems, so we expect Spain to be a new chapter for us. I was one of the lucky ones after Shanghai - I got out on the Monday after the race and headed to Brazil. I spent some good time with family and friends and worked on my fitness. I will do some work on the simulator this week before heading out to Barcelona. This is a track I know from racing in other formulae - in particular GP2. It’s a nice challenge for a driver and though I’m disappointed that I will be driving the previous specification chassis, as we didn’t have enough time to modify two cars, I hope with all the work we’ve been doing to make our race weekends go more smoothly we can have a positive European debut.”

John Booth, Team Principal:
“What should have been a useful three-week break in the calendar, and an opportunity to ensure we are fully prepared for the European season, turned into something of a race against time thanks to the fallout from “The Volcano”. It took up to five days after the Chinese Grand Prix before the entire team were back in England, so we had to rush headlong into preparations for Spain. The planned modifications to the chassis were always going to be our most significant development, but they were also the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we will bring to Barcelona. As a new team we will be using new trucks and a new motorhome for the first time and on top of that we moved into our new race preparation facility while the team were stranded in China, so we certainly had a lot going on for us when we finally made it home. Nonetheless, the team have done an admirable job and we’ll be heading to Spain this week full of optimism for the next phase of our debut season.”

Nick Wirth, Technical Director:
“Since Shanghai, we have conducted an extensive investigation into the failures that halted the obvious progress the team has been making since its debut. That investigation has highlighted a number of issues that are currently being addressed by the race team, Wirth Research and our key suppliers and our continuing aim is to put an end to the reliability issues that have dominated our Grand Prix debut. Having worked tirelessly to prepare the new car for the race, including its successful rehomologation, it is a bitter pill to swallow that we are unable to complete the second car due to the “volcanic delays”. Running two fundamentally different specification cars at Barcelona will certainly challenge the team, but as the reliability fixes apply to both specifications, we’ll keep our heads down and focus solely on getting both cars to the chequered flag.”