To many, the news will come as little surprise in the light of the team's desperately poor start to the F1 2011 World Championship campaign, but now it has been confirmed that Virgin Racing has parted company with technical director and shareholder Nick Wirth in order to 'take greater control of its own destiny' and 'pursue an alternative technical path'.
Far from taking the fight to 2010 arch-rival Team Lotus, Virgin's sophomore season of top flight competition to-date has seen the team slip right back into the clutches of the hapless Hispania Racing, which failed even to test its own car ahead of the Melbourne curtain-raiser.
Six races into F1 2011, Virgin has tallied a best finish of just 14th place for rookie Jérôme d'Ambrosio in the Australian Grand Prix back in March, and neither the young Belgian nor team-mate Timo Glock have succeeded in qualifying any higher than 20th or getting to within half-a-second of Lotus, which conversely has threatened on occasion to genuinely challenge the midfield.
Wirth had asked to be judged only after an upgrade package was introduced to the under-par MVR-02 in last month's Turkish Grand Prix, but there was no discernible improvement at Istanbul Park, and indeed Glock was unable even to start the race following a gearbox failure.
Now, the price for that chronic lack of competitiveness has been paid, and in truth, the writing had been on the wall for some time. Just over two months ago, Glock rued that 'performance-wise, we moved backwards' over the winter and that Wirth's stubborn and perhaps misguided belief in the unconventional aerodynamic doctrine of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) 'could be' the root cause of the team's woes [see separate story – click here
Back at the launch of the new MVR-02 in February, Virgin's technical director had alluded to what he described as 'the miracle' and 'bigger picture' of CFD, and claimed that he was 'very much looking forward to the day when we make our real impact and everyone realises what we've achieved' [see separate story – click here
McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale has similarly opined that CFD is 'vital' in F1, but at the same time cautioned that 'there's still a use for the wind tunnel' in aerodynamic development, too, and that to place all of a team's eggs into just one basket and rely solely upon the former as Wirth espoused 'would be a risk too far' just now [see separate story – click here
Above and beyond the Englishman's departure, Virgin has terminated its three-year agreement with his technical and design services organisation Wirth Research, and SPEED.com
reports that the decision was made in the wake of a board meeting in Monaco last weekend – at which the subject of discussion was not present, and in which, team consultant Pat Symonds offered a brutal appraisal of the situation.
“In November, 2010, sportscar manufacturer Marussia Motors acquired a significant shareholding in the Marussia Virgin Racing F1 Team, securing the team's future and underlining the marque's long-term commitment to F1,” explained Virgin Racing CEO Andy Webb in an official statement. “Over the past six months, Marussia and the board of directors have undertaken a comprehensive review in order to ensure that Marussia Virgin Racing has the strongest platform, team of people and resources in-place to achieve its long-term ambitions.