Virgin Racing team boss John Booth has confirmed that there will be further developments introduced to the VR-01 before the end of the Formula One season, despite the majority of its rivals admitting that they have already started to look at next year.

The British newcomer topped the 'third division' times in the opening free practice session at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday, but had to give best to season-long rival Lotus by the end of the day. Lotus, however, openly confirms that its attentions are firmly on season two of its programme, possibly opening a door to Virgin over the remaining seven races.

"For us, it is a little bit different," Booth conceded, "We still have a few steps forward to come this year that we didn't have on the car because of reliability problems at the beginning of the year. The focus has changed [for] the second half [of the season], so there is still a little bit more to come this year, but [we are] working full speed on the new car.

"I think [the performance] is pretty much where we expected it to be. We are very much enjoying our battle with Lotus and, overall, [happy] to be about three to three-and-a-half per cent off the front teams. I think we should be very pleased with that."

Confirmation that work was underway on the VR-02 will come as relief for fans worried by rumours that the team was struggling to make it to its second campaign, and Booth was quick to scotch suggestions - including those purported by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone - that the team was ailing.

"This time of year, there are always comments from certain quarters, but we are here for the long haul," he insisted, "Plans are well in place for next year, and well advanced for next year. Our sponsorship base is very good - we have brought eight new sponsors to F1 this year and we have got a solid base to go forward on. Perhaps we haven't kept certain people informed of our position, and maybe we should have done, but there are no thoughts other than going forward next year."

Lotus meanwhile, is fully focused on 2011, with chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne confirming that, having achieved everything it wanted from the T127, work is well underway on its successor.

"For us, it is very clear that we are fully focused on next year's car and have been for several months now," the F1 veteran noted, "I think, while it is still important for us to try and maintain tenth place in the championship [and therefore receive valuable prize money], I think the most important thing as one of the new teams is that we make that step and close the gap to the established teams and be able to race them properly.

"I think just being on the grid for us was a huge achievement, but you are only a new team once and we are not a new team next year. We are an F1 team and we have to make sure that we are performing as one, so we very much switched our focus onto next year's car.

"[Today] is quite an auspicious day for us, as it was the day a year ago that we actually first walked around our factory. There were three of us. Now there are 220 of us. We hope that we can do a better job for next year, so that is clearly where our focus is."

Like Booth, Gascoyne insisted that the team's performance was in line with first year expectations.

"As I said earlier, we didn't have an entry this time a year ago, and we didn't know we were actually going to be in the sport, so we missed several months of development," he pointed out, "If we had had that, I think we would have done a much better job, but our aim coming into this year was always to try and be the best of the new teams, try to close the gap to the established teams and do a thorough, professional job.

"We had some big updates which moved us forward but, in reality, we were never going to challenge for ninth place or [threaten] any of the established teams, so I think we have pretty much delivered exactly what we wanted to do. We would prefer to be a bit closer, but time just hasn't allowed that for us. I think we would have been much happier being more reliable - that has been a disappointment to us, but some of that has been out of our control through outside suppliers and we have got to make sure we put that right for next year.

"However, I think we have pretty much delivered what we expected to deliver, and on budget as well, as my boss keeps reminding me to be!"

Persistent gearbox problems highlighted the situations that Gascoyne felt were beyond the team's control, but he feels that the team has finally got to grip with the gremlin in time to secure the final top ten spot.

"Gearbox and hydraulics have been a particularly weak area," he noted, "We haven't had the resources to put all the fixes in place and I think we have been let down by some suppliers who have not done as good a job as they should have done. But you cannot make excuses, you have got to put things right.

"It is something that has been a disappointment for us as a team, but I think we are now very much on top of it. We want to have solid two car finishes for the rest of the year as I think, if we do that, we have got the performance and the drivers to secure tenth place."

When the F1 season resumed in Belgium, Lotus took up where it left off at the last race in Hungary, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli topping the new teams' timesheets in very mixed conditions. Virgin's Timo Glock had headed team-mate Lucas di Grassi in session one, but skated off-track early in the afternoon outing and was relegated to the bottom of the list.

"Obviously, the weather made it an interesting first day for everyone," Gascoyne admitted, "The first session was very wet and we just ran on the full wets. In the second session, we switched to the inters and then managed to run both sets of dry tyres, but the changing conditions made any meaningful work or comparisons very difficult. But I'm reasonably happy with where we are and look forward to some dry weather over the weekend."

Glock's off aside, both Virgin Racing cars ran faultlessly throughout the day, with the first session focused on finding a good wet set-up, before di Grassi took up the role of accumulating data for the engineers to work with overnight.

"An interesting day in some interesting conditions!" technical director Nick Wirth commented, "The morning was quite productive, with both drivers trying some different set-up solutions for the wet conditions. Timo's afternoon started in a promising way, but his crash early in the session will require a change of monocoque tonight as there is some damage that can't be repaired at the circuit. Lucas had a more productive afternoon, and chose to run his option tyres earlier in mixed conditions and the primes at the end, in contrast to most of the others."

The third and final newcomer of 2010, Hispania Racing, finished just ahead of Glock on the combined timesheets, with Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto progressing through the day. The team's future is also being questioned by Ecclestone, and is the subject of a possible tie-up with F1 aspirant Epsilon Euskadi.

"It was a useful day for our team, with the typical weather here in Spa under difficult conditions," team principal Colin Kolles claimed, "We could run many laps and both drivers got a lot of track time. This was very important, as it prepared us for racing on the wet track, but also when it is drying up. Sakon stopped his car at the end of the second practice because an alarm message displayed on his dash board, but we got a lot of experience today, and we will see what awaits us tomorrow."


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