Timo Glock has reflected that during the early stages, at least, there were moments in F1 2010 when he had to stop and ask himself 'bloody hell, what am I doing here?!' – but the German's perseverance with Virgin Racing has paid off, he assures, as he insists the team is now 'on the right path' heading into 2011.
Virgin's maiden campaign of top flight competition was hardly a glorious one, as the team wound up as the wooden spoon-holders in the constructors' title chase – and this in a season that included Hispania Racing (HRT), we might add – and suffered the very public ignominy along the way of its VR-01 initially being fitted with a fuel tank not large enough to enable either Glock or team-mate Lucas Di Grassi to go the distance.
From eight starts between the pair over the opening four grands prix, there was but a single finish – for Di Grassi in Malaysia – and Glock acknowledges that it was in every respect a 'character-building' year and 'a learning process', with the voice of his experience calmly adding that 'we learn from our mistakes'.
Whilst its more established rivals had been able to iron out the issues with their own cars during pre-season testing, the majority of Virgin's woes became apparent in the races themselves – in the very public glare of the global media spotlight. On the back foot right from the word 'go', for a driver more accustomed to fighting for front row starting slots and podium finishes with his previous employer Toyota, Glock concedes that at times, the frustration and disappointment did get to him.
“For me, it was pretty clear from the beginning,” the 28-year-old acknowledged. “The team was quite open with me, telling me 'we don't know where this journey will go' – but I said 'I just want to be a part of it'. Sure, we had some hard times, everyone in the team, especially in the first few races. The first five races were only downhill; ten laps in I would get the radio call, 'Timo, you have to come back to the pits', and to be honest, I did have a few thoughts like 'bloody hell, what am I doing here?!'
“It was clear that it would be a tough year, but whatever challenge I had, I wanted to make the best out of it. When the conditions were changeable or the races were difficult like in Korea or Singapore, that was my opportunity to show myself by really pushing and getting the best out of the car. We were unlucky in Korea; we could maybe have grabbed a point, but I got knocked off...
“It was character-building, but we slowly sorted out all the mistakes, we started to restructure in the middle of the year and tried to make the car reliable and quicker, and the last couple of races were actually good fun. It was a good experience for me personally, and a good experience for the team.
“We realised when we put everything on the table that we had a lot to sort out over the winter so that we could be in better shape for 2011, and in the end we are a team and I think we came out of the year much, much stronger. It's clear that you never come into F1 and then, bang, you're in the top three straightaway – if that happened, the rest would be doing something wrong – but I think our second year can only be better.
“In Valencia [during testing last week], I came back into the pits for the final time and I said to John [Booth – team principal] and the guys, 'What should we do to the car? Hit it, or put it in a museum..?!' It gave us a tough time and 2010 was a big challenge for the whole team, but we developed and structured the team and I think we are on the right path at the moment.”