Put your hands together please for Ben James – Badger’s latest guest writer, who’s taking a look at Virgin Racing
Although the cars won’t turn a wheel in anger for a couple of months or so, there’s more to talk about in this off-season than at any point in the last few years, so let’s get ahead of the game and have a quick look at a the new teams due to be lining up on the grid later this year.
The first of the new boys to come under F1 Badger’s eagle eye is Virgin Racing, a joint production between Richard Branson and his quite luxuriant flowing locks. For those of you who’ve only just awoken from hibernation over the winter, Branson’s involvement comes courtesy of an arrangement with the Manor GP team, which launched officially as Virgin Racing in the middle of December and, like many Branson schemes, it’s sure to involve a combination of business acumen, razzmatazz, and sheer lunacy. There might even be some racing involved too.
Not only does Branson claim the team will have the smallest budget in F1 , but the car is notable for having been wholly designed using something called Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). In plain English this means it’s done on a computer without the need for a ridiculously expensive wind tunnel, so is sure to cut costs dramatically. While cutting your cloth is very much in F1 vogue at the moment, the exclusive use of CFD could demonstrate quite hilariously that, in terms of car design, you get what you pay for. Watch this space. The team’s Technical Director and CFD’s prime adherent, Nick Wirth, formerly worked on such notable F1 ventures as Simtek and March Engineering with none other than former FIA commandant Max Mosley. It really is remarkable they managed to get a slot on the grid, isn’t it?
Driving for the team will be Timo Glock and Lucas Di Grassi. While it may seem strange for Timo to be driving for one of the new teams given his relative success with Toyota, he’ll doubtless get a significant amount of responsibility and the chance properly to lead a team. Still only 26, this will surely put him in a very good position to move to a bigger team in a year or two, so it may prove a case of one step back to take two steps forward. Di Grassi, runner up to Glock in the 2007 GP2 series, has mixed F1 testing and GP2 over the last few seasons, and now gets his first proper chance at F1. Glock will provide an excellent benchmark against which to measure his progress and, for his sake, let’s hope he’s more Hamilton or Vettel than Piquet or Grosjean (F1 Badger sincerely hopes Romain’s bank job is still open… )
Given the structure of Virgin’s involvement in the team; no equity and loans, it seems Branson’s in F1 purely for the exposure, with the racing very much a sideshow. With this in mind, F1 Badger is driven (pun absolutely intended) to ask what his specific motivation is. Could it be in any way related to Virgin’s impending move into UK retail banking? For relatively little investment, it would seem a great way to get lots of exposure around the world. In fact, Virgin’s reputation for maximum brand exposure is making the task of securing sponsors tricky, that said, the rumour mill is in full swing that Lloyds Bank are on the verge of announcing a deal wit the team. Keep an eye on the livery, that’s all we’re saying…
Badger’s “New Team Focus” will continue this week….