Virgin Racing rookie Lucas di Grassi may have to squeeze one extra race out of the VR-01 that he campaigned throughout Formula One's season-opening run of 'flyaway' rounds if the European air travel chaos cannot be sorted in time for the teams to prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Although the Barcelona event comes three weeks after China, where the teams are currently stranded pending the departure of Formula One Management's fleet of Boeing freight aircraft. The situation was the topic of paddock conversation even after the Shanghai race and, although air travel is now returning to normal, any further eruptions from the offending Icelandic volcano could spell disaster for the teams.
Virgin could be as badly hit as any of its rivals as, despite most looking to introduce upgrades for the first of the European races, it is intending to finally field a car with a fuel tank big enough to guarantee its drivers can reach the chequered flag. Although it hasn't been an issue so far - with di Grassi only making the finish at Sepang and Timo Glock yet to see out an entire distance - the team has been unable to race competitively while it ponders having to limit its fuel consumption.
Work has been continuing back at Virgin's Dinnington base, but sources report that only a single car has been built with the expanded fuel capacity while the team waits to convert the three cars it took to Asia. Should they not be returned in time, either di Grassi or Glock - and it is unlikely to be the German owing to his status - could be faced with running the old set-up at the Circuit de Catalunya.
FOM chief Bernie Ecclestone remains confident that there will be no interruption to the F1 schedule, however, insisting that the Spanish GP will go ahead as planned - with all twelve teams - even if it means airlifting the circus direct to Spain from China.
“The main concern is getting the engines back because they have to be worked on,” he told Britain's Times
newspaper, “I am sure everything will be alright. There is no question of cancelling the Spanish Grand Prix. Of course, it is causing everybody problems, but we will find a way to get everyone home.”