With its innovative CPD design, Virgin Racing were hoping to prove that their way was the way to go for the future. In the end, it turned out that the same reliability that has restricted them in winter testing was the same reliability that reared its ugly head to cap its début weekend.
With clearly the best looking paint job in the paddock, Virgin Racing updated it’s simple front wing design with an extra small wing, adding an extra layer to its design. Still not as complex as the Red Bull or indeed their nearest rival Lotus, but still something in the right direction. If Nick Wirth and his team can produce something more complex for their next update, then it won’t be long until the Virgin Racing cars will be able to complete with the more established teams.
However, it was the reliability of the red and black cars that stifled the teams progress again with Lucas Di Grassi not able to set a time in First Practice.
Second Practice proved more successful with both Virgins able to set times but both were a second slower that rivals Lotus F1. Drama then struck Timo Glock in the final practice on Saturday morning when turning into a tight left hander, his left front wheel detached itself and rolled off on its own accord with Glock able to limp back to the pits. The team eventually identifying the issue as an under-torqued airgun.
But, for qualifying, the team was able to put this behind them and Timo Glock produced a superb lap time to come out top of the three new teams, qualifying 0.1 seconds ahead of Jarno Trulli. A lap that certainly put the smile on Richard Bransons face. Di Grassi wasn’t too far behind, qualifying only 0.2 seconds behind Kovalainen in 22nd.
And so to the race and not only the racing début of the Virgin cars but also the F1 début of Lucas Di Grassi who, on only his first lap was able to make up three places in the melee caused the Mark Webbers smoking Red Bull. However, it was to no avail and within three laps, Di Grassi pulled over at the scene on Niko Hulkenburgs spectacular spin with, yes, you’ve guess, hydraulic failure.
So, it was up to Jarno Trulli to save Virgins honour, and so he did, for a while. With the procession at the front of the pack, all eyes turned to Trulli while he was hounding Kovalainen for several laps before making his move down the inside of turn 4 and holding his own before the dreaded gremlins began their work at his gearbox. 3rd gear, then a few laps later, 5th. Hoping for it to be fixed, he headed for the pits with the idea that the rest of the race could be used as an extended test session. However, it was not to be and the end of the weekend had come for the Virgin Racing Team.
Overall, a good weekend, showing that the red and black cars are competitive and are able to be raced wheel to wheel. And with Nick Wirth showing that his team at the factory are making updates bodes well for the development of the car over the season. But, if they are to beat their rivals Lotus F1 and HRT, they are going to have to sort out those reliability issues and make it to the end of a race.