Virgin Racing's at times painful initiation into the high-profile, high-pressure world of F1 continued on the opening day of the final pre-season group test at Barcelona in Spain yesterday, as Lucas Di Grassi crashed the team's VR-01 heavily into the barriers – as fellow 2010 newcomer Lotus F1, by contrast, continued to make steady progress.
Di Grassi completed just 31 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday, before coming to grief at turn nine. Whilst fears were initially expressed that the 'off' had been caused by another wing failure – after the Richard Branson-backed outfit had suffered a front wing failure at Jerez on its maiden outing at Jerez de la Frontera two weeks ago, confining Timo Glock to a mere eleven laps on that occasion.
However, the issue was subsequently traced to 'experimental control settings' rather than a broken rear wing, according to Speedweek
, but allied to a hydraulic problem earlier in the day and an anticipated 'all-nighter' to repair the damage in time for day two, the unique Nick Wirth-designed contender – the only car in F1 history to have been completely conceived by CFD – is still somewhat short of mileage as the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix curtain-raiser at Sakhir in just over a fortnight's time approaches apace.
“It's not what I want, but it's what I expected,” 25-year-old Di Grassi told Germany publication Auto Motor und Sport
after the accident had ended his day's action. “Frustration now would be out-of-place. On the contrary, I have to motivate the guys in the team.
“If I was with an established team, I would have set myself a goal – but in my situation I have to grow with the team, to develop myself and the car at the same time.”
The only car slower than Virgin's challenger on day one at Barcelona was the Lotus F1 T127 in the hands of the Anglo/Malaysian concern's test and reserve driver Fairuz Fauzy. Lotus was similarly delayed last week when Heikki Kovalainen embedded the car in the tyre wall at Jerez – but despite Fauzy winding up almost a second adrift of Di Grassi and a gaping 6.5 seconds shy of the outright pace set by Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber, chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne pointed to a positive day.
“It was a very productive day – 76 laps with no mechanical worries on the car,” the Englishman stated. “In the morning we conducted some engine LAMDA running, which we completed successfully. We ran through a series of system set-up checks, completed our first starts and evaluated a number of other control systems on the car, as well as monitoring temperatures and pressures throughout the car.
“All-in-all this was a successful day on the track, and we also ticked off a lot of behind-the-scenes tasks ahead of the first race. Fairuz did a very good job, with no mistakes, and we were able to complete our whole programme.”
Former Monaco Grand Prix-winner Jarno Trulli will take over in the cockpit on Friday and Saturday.