Virgin Racing's dramatic baptism into the world of Formula One continues in China this weekend, with the British minnow hoping that ongoing work on its VR-01 chassis brings some reward in the last of four 'flyaway' races that open the 2010 season.
Buoyed by the thought of returning to Europe for a five-month spell closer to home, broken only by a brief trip across the Atlantic to Canada in mid-June, the team's objective after 45,000 miles of air travel is to end the long-haul rounds on a positive note, with both
cars seeing the chequered flag in Shanghai.
The 56-lap Chinese Grand Prix provides a technical challenge for both engineer and driver, but team principal John Booth admits that each passing race adds a little more to the armoury of the small squad.
“This might seem a little odd, but we're in a constant development cycle - not just technically, but also in terms of moulding the team - so it's important that we get back to home base, regroup and keep ourselves focused on the job in hand," he explained, "This week we head back to pretty much where we just came from, after spending a week back in the UK between the Malaysian and Chinese Grands Prix and, at the same time as maximising our chances for China, we're headlong into preparations for the European races, a big part of which will rely on having a solid infrastructure on the road with us for the European rounds.
"I'm delighted to say that our new race preparation building in Dinnington is nearing completion and this will help us enormously for the five months of European races that lie ahead, where we can look forward to a more fluid turnaround operation in between races.”
Technical director Nick Wirth's focus has been more on matters at hand, with the embarrassment of revealing, at the Australian Grand Prix, that the VR-01's fuel tank would require alteration, replaced by the satisfaction of seeing rookie Lucas di Grassi bring the car home for its first race finish in Malaysia a week later.
“Since our first race finish in Sepang, we've been working to improve the VR-01 further, and we plan to bring improvements to the aerodynamics, mechanical package and transmission, as well as modifications to the fuel system to help with low-fuel pickup," Wirth revealed, "These should allow us to improve our low-fuel qualifying performance and also help our race-pace."
This weekend's outing, however, will bring its own 'problems', but the team remains constant in its aims.
"Shanghai itself looks like it will be significantly cooler than the last two races, and as we will again be using the harder compounds in these lower temperatures, we'll be watching for tyre warm-up issues," Wirth continued, "The long, low-speed corners dominate this track, so the focus will be on maximising our performance in these. Our aim for the weekend is to build upon the clear improvements we demonstrated at Sepang.”
While senior driver Timo Glock will be looking to erase memories of the error that saw him spin out of the Malaysian Grand Prix on lap three, team-mate di Grassi heads to Shanghai heads to China in optimistic mood, even though he has yet to sample the Shanghai International Circuit for real.
“Malaysia was a great race weekend, as we finished ahead of the other newcomers, but now we need more of that kind of result," the Brazilian noted, "For us right now, it's all about hard work and we're all doing a lot of that to try to keep moving us forward. I went back to England to use the simulator so I could practice on the Shanghai circuit, as I have never been there before, and I'm looking forward to China.
"From the work I've done in the sim, I know it's a really technical track that tests all your skills as a driver. On top of that, the weather is much cooler than the previous race. It's always a difficult race to prepare for but we heading there with the knowledge that getting things right through the weekend could lead to another strong race performance.”