Heading into the F1 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir this weekend, Virgin Racing has 'yet to show our true performance level' and is overdue a slice of good fortune – that is the assessment of the newcomer's technical director Nick Wirth.
Despite being the first of the new teams to hit the test track at Jerez in southern Spain this time last month, Virgin's preparations for its maiden campaign of top flight competition have been repeatedly stymied by reliability niggles, most persistently recurring hydraulic problems that have severely limited mileage in the build-up to the season.
Contending that those troubles are hopefully now behind the squad, however, Wirth claims that the true raw pace of the entirely CFD-designed VR-01 challenger will only become apparent during qualifying in the desert kingdom in two days' time – and states his conviction that arguably the least reliable of all the teams during testing will still be around when the chequered flag falls.
“The past nine months have flown by so quickly,” the Englishman confessed. “It's hard to believe that our grand prix debut has arrived! Despite the challenges we encountered in pre-season testing, we have conducted a great deal of off-track preparation, to give ourselves the best possible chance of a strong showing in our inaugural race. The rest will be down to good fortune – and we've probably stored some of that up by now!
“We think that we have identified and applied appropriate fixes to the various hydraulic problems that affected our winter testing so badly. We also didn't get the chance to set times with low fuel or the super-soft tyre in testing, so going into Bahrain we have yet to show our true performance level. Free practice on Friday will provide our first real barometer of relative competitiveness, but we'll only know our true Bahrain pace on Saturday afternoon.
“As one of the most challenging circuits for car and brake-cooling – with several hard-braking corners over the lap – Bahrain is going to provide an altogether different challenge after three wet weeks of pre-season testing. Therefore, the spotlight will inevitably fall upon the car's cooling systems – and those of our drivers, who face cockpit conditions of around 45°C.
“To give us our best possible chance, we will be introducing the first of our season's aerodynamic and mechanical development parts, which will significantly improve our pace versus our testing configuration, with more planned developments being added for Melbourne.
“Our simple objective for Bahrain is to do everything possible to ensure we have a strong debut race from lights-to-flag. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with Virgin Racing and Wirth Research for their support and the massive effort that has brought us so far in such a short space of time.”