It might not have been quite so bad had the team not stated so boldly and publicly at the launch of its F1 2011 contender that the target was to make regular appearances in the Q2 phase of qualifying during its sophomore campaign of top flight competition this year – and to make matters worse, the key members all genuinely seemed to believe that was possible.
As it stands, however, Virgin will likely be more bothered by the returning 107 per cent rule during the opening grands prix of the season than by doing battle against the likes of Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso as had been hoped. The MVR-02 has displayed little signs of any decent pace in winter testing – a fact the team has not even attempted to conceal – with all expectations now pinned firmly upon a Turkish Grand Prix upgrade package in May.
With even perennial F1 2010 rival Team Lotus having seemingly taken a sizeable leap forward – and Hispania Racing looking set to remain as abject as ever – that means that for the first three outings at least, Sir Richard Branson's boys will in all probability have no-one to truly compete against save for themselves, mired in a sort of no-man's-land down at the rear of the field.
For Timo Glock, more than anybody else, that is a crying shame, for the German is good, and a driver of his calibre deserves far, far better than the car that technical director Nick Wirth and his super-computer have thus far bestowed – or perhaps beleaguered – upon him. Having fought for pole positions and podium finishes with previous employer Toyota, right now the 29-year-old's F1 future is in serious danger of going down the pan – and through no fault of his own.
How rookie team-mate Jérôme d'Ambrosio will fare this year, meanwhile, is anyone's guess. The Belgian is certainly one of the paddock's nice guys and has some pedigree from the junior formulae, but his form during testing has left a little to be desired. Glock's raw speed finished the fledgling F1 career of Lucas Di Grassi last year before the Brazilian had even really got started – could history be about to repeat itself twelve months on?
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