Timo Glock has conceded that 'it will be very difficult' for Virgin Racing to overhaul arch-rival Lotus for tenth spot in the final constructors' rankings at the end of the two teams' maiden campaign of top flight competition in F1 2010 – but Sir Richard Branson insists the year has been 'great fun', and cheap to-boot.
None of the three newcomers – Virgin, Lotus or Hispania (HRT) – has come close to troubling the scorers this season, but Heikki Kovalainen's 13th place for Lotus in the Australian Grand Prix back in March means it is the Anglo/Malaysian operation that presently occupies the coveted tenth position in the standings, and the share of the sport's commercial prize money that goes with it, with any team that winds up further down the order missing out.
For an outfit with as small a budget as Virgin, that kind of financial injection could make all the difference – but worse still for the John Booth-led concern is the fact that HRT is similarly ahead at this stage of the campaign, with Karun Chandhok's brace of 14th positions in Melbourne and Monaco bettering the single 14th-place finish achieved by Lucas Di Grassi in Malaysia. Twelfth or better is required to dislodge Lotus from P10 over the remaining four outings – but Glock does not fancy his team's chances.
“It will be very difficult,” the 28-year-old – who has been linked with a switch to Renault in 2011 – told German publication Auto Motor und Sport
. “Maybe if there's a crazy wet race or something like that. Otherwise, I don't see any chance.”
Virgin Racing CEO Graeme Lowdon has acknowledged that 'if you do well on the track then you get very well-rewarded' financially, but Branson has played down the importance of clinching tenth place, even if he reveals that his team has spent far less than has Lotus in 2010.
“It actually hasn't been hard at all,” underlined the British billionaire, when it was pointed out to him how different his F1 experiences have been over the past two seasons, from the championship-winning exploits of Brawn GP to back-of-the-grid struggles with Virgin. “It's great fun. As I said at the beginning of the season, we knew we were going to be the underdogs [and] we went into it with our eyes open – and it's fun building a new team from scratch. There are quite a lot of other people who would love to be able to get new teams in but have been turned down.
“I would have had to have been a little bit foolish to assume that we were going to have a new team and we were going to start winning in F1. It takes a number of years to build a new team from scratch. It's been fun – I've actually had just as much fun watching if we could beat Lotus!
“The team are delivering what they promised on reliability and so on. The amount of money that this team is spending is £15 million less than Lotus – maybe £20 million less – so to be almost matching them car-for-car is great, and the reliability has been better. Nobody's expecting or budgeting for tenth place [in the championship], and even if you got it you wouldn't get the money for another couple of years – you've got to have tenth place over two seasons in order to get that money.”
The battle with Lotus is indeed an intriguing one, given that Branson and his fellow airline boss Tony Fernandes have an ongoing bet that one of them will have to serve as an air stewardess on one of the other one's flights – uniform and all – depending upon which of the two teams comes off worst in the final standings.