After the frustration of recent races, where its first major upgrade failed to produce the results its creators anticipated, Virgin Racing finally came good in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After rookie Lucas di Grassi had headed the new teams in the third free practice session on Saturday morning, Timo Glock took the same honours in qualifying as both VR-01s ran faultlessly. Having worked on their race set-ups in final practice, the team felt it had made significant progress overnight, but knew that it still needed to demonstrate that in practice and qualifying.
The three-phase qualifying process proved to be one of the most exciting yet for Virgin as, despite not making it through to Q2, Glock snatched 19th position and the 'new team pole' from Heikki Kovalainen on his final lap.
“Geeks of the world – rejoice!" technical director Nick Wirth grinned, "After the disappointment of not demonstrating Virgin Racing's performance progress in Silverstone and Hockenheim, we have finally managed to have a relatively smooth weekend with the revised VR-01 and have regained our place at the top of the new teams.
"Timo and his crew made a big step forward with the car overnight and we knew, after his first run, that we were in good shape. His second run was another good step and he did a great job to give the team our best qualifying result since Shanghai. From the outset, Virgin Racing has dared to be different and I want to thank all the team, our partners, sponsors and fans for keeping the faith this year in our unique digital development process. In the meantime, we'll focus on a strong race performance from both cars tomorrow.”
di Grassi, meanwhile, was frustrated to be classified only 22nd, behind the two Lotus drivers, after the floor on his VR-01 was damaged when he ran wide at one of the Hungaroring's many corners.
"Lucas' day was looking very strong in FP3, but it seems that he ran wide at the beginning of qualifying which tore a big hole in his floor and damaged his front wing," Wirth confirmed, "This will have lost a lot of downforce and compromised his qualifying, but he will be strong in the race, as ever.
Lotus is unlikely to allow Virgin easy passage to the 'new team win' on raceday, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli qualifying within a tenth of Glock, and within a tenth of each other.
Although chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne admitted to a 'little bit of a disappointment' after claiming both drivers failed to get a clean run on their second set of tyres, Kovalainen admitted that he had got as much out of the car as he could.