Having been lapped by fellow newcomer Lotus in Canada a fortnight ago, Virgin Racing is hoping that its latest update package can live up to the numbers it produced in simulation tests.
F1 returns to Europe this weekend with the entire Virgin team looking for an upturn in its fortunes after the disappointment of Montreal, and optimistic that work behind the scenes at both its Dinnington base and that of chassis builder Wirth Research can allow it to re-close the gap extended by Lotus in recent races.
“Now that we are back in Europe, the whole team is gearing up for a big push forwards in performance, which starts in Valencia," technical director Nick Wirth confirmed, "We have been working very hard on the areas of the car's performance that we know we need to improve, and we will give a track debut to some mechanical performance parts that are the result of a long development programme.
"In all aspects of our research, both virtual and in R&D testing, it has looked a promising step, so we expect it to help the car's behaviour and improve our lap time. The aim for this race is to get experience of it ahead of the new aero package which comes at Silverstone [but] as ever, we'll also be focused on having a smooth and reliable weekend.”
After the brief trans-Atlantic sojourn, the world championship returns to Europe for a six-race sweep that takes the teams through to September and the start of the 'flyaways' that will determine the outcome of the season, and Virgin team principal John Booth is hoping that the squad can improve in the second half of its debut campaign.
“Despite enjoying our debut Canadian Grand Prix experience, it's good to be back on European soil where we can now establish a good rhythm for the next six races - and remain in the same time zone!" he noted, "Apart from the usual turnaround challenges following a long-haul race, we've actually found some time to draw breath since Canada and this has provided us with a good opportunity to reflect on the last few races and look to the period ahead.
"It's hard to believe that the mid-point of the season is almost upon us and, of course, we have our home race at Silverstone to look forward to in a couple of weeks. I think we are in good shape for part two of the European season and we hope to get things off to a good start in Valencia this weekend.”
The harbour area of downtown Valencia and the facilities created for the 2007 America's Cup form the backdrop for the European Grand Prix but, with just three races on the unique circuit, have yet to find to universal favour with those who get to race on it. Like most street circuits, the 5.4km track is relatively narrow when compared to permanent circuits, although its fast-flowing nature, coupled with the close proximity of the barriers, makes for an interesting challenge.
“It's a track I quite enjoy and I got the fastest lap here last year, so I have only good things to say about it," senior Virgin driver Timo Glock admitted, bucking a trend, "It's a circuit where you really have to keep your eye on the ball, a bit like Monaco, because the fast straights, together with the barriers, mean that you can easily get caught out
"Canada was a tough weekend in terms of setting the car up and managing the tyres and I hope we can have a smoother ride of it this weekend. As always our objective is to challenge our immediate competition to be the best of the new teams.”