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.