Timo Glock was glum about his prospects of making the cut in qualifying for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix following a disastrous opening day in Shanghai bedevilled by troubles for both his car and that of Virgin Racing team-mate Jérôme D'Ambrosio – and at the end of which even the two much-maligned HRTs were quicker.
Glock encountered a mechanical problem at the rear of his MVR-02 that restricted him to a mere ten minutes of running time in FP1 – and a subsequent engine issue caused by a broken valve in the afternoon FP2 session confined the German to the pit garage, leaving him unable to complete his planned programme for the day or effect any meaningful set-up work. The 29-year-old concluded proceedings placed a lowly 26th out of the 27 drivers present on the timing screens, more than seven full seconds shy of the leading pace.
“Not a great day,” he acknowledged. “We didn't run much today, as we had a lot of technical problems. In first practice, I had a problem at the rear end and couldn't do much; in second practice, I had an engine problem so I only did about twelve laps and I haven't been able to do any set-up work at all, which is extremely frustrating.”
Indeed, with D'Ambrosio having snuck into the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last month by less than half-a-second, Glock is fearful that should the likes of Red Bull Racing and McLaren-Mercedes really
see fit to stretch their legs in qualifying in China, it could just knock the two Virgin drivers out-of-contention.
“If the big teams in Q1 use soft tyres because they were upset with us at the last race and want us out of the race, this [qualifying] could be really tight,” he told Auto Motor und Sport
magazine, alluding to the reintroduced 107 per cent rule in F1 this year, and going on to reiterate his concerns that it is the unconventional aerodynamic doctrine of CFD championed so heavily by Virgin technical director Nick Wirth that is arguably the culprit for the MVR-02's disappointing lack of performance.
“The success [of CFD] has been okay, but maybe we would develop even faster with computer simulation as well as a wind tunnel. [Experienced engineers] would bring us faster progress in aerodynamics, but it's hard to get good people to come to a small team – and it costs money.”
D'Ambrosio, for his part, got through considerably more laps than Glock on the opening day in Shanghai – 54 in total – and the Belgian rookie focussed his efforts on long runs and tyre degradation tests, but his final planned stint on the softer 'Option' tyre was scuppered by floor damage.
“I'm happy with my performance today, so it's a shame that some issues let us down and prevented us from improving further,” rued the 25-year-old. “In particular, I wasn't able to get the best out of my 'Option' tyre run. Hopefully with a better run of luck tomorrow, we can get back to where we expected to be.”
“Our race weekend here in China did not get off to the most auspicious of starts today,” summarised Virgin team principal John Booth, “and to say our day has been less-than-straightforward would be something of an understatement.
“This morning, having waited for the track condition to improve, when we did finally get our timed runs underway, Timo experienced a mechanical problem. This afternoon, after just twelve laps, he suffered an engine problem which confined him to the garage for the second half of the session, so he was unable to complete a soft tyre run and improve his lap time, which is reflected in his position today.
“Jérôme had a better afternoon session and was making good progress, but immediately prior to his 'Option' tyre run, we noted heavy floor damage. This wasn't sufficient to prevent him from running, but it was by no means a representative run. Hopefully we have got all our bad luck out of the way today, and tomorrow will provide a better reflection of where we stand here.”