Marussia Racing's new MR01 finally made its first on-track appearance during a promotional 'filming' day at Silverstone, just a few miles from is Banbury base.
The Anglo-Russian team endured a torrid time in its attempts to get the car ready for the third and final group test at Barcelona last week, having skipped the opening session in Jerez to prepare the MR01 for early March, only to fail the mandatory FIA crash tests. Although both Timo Glock and rookie Charles Pic got some miles under their belts in Barcelona last month, it was at the wheel of the 2011-spec car, leaving them preciously short of time in the new machine ahead of its race debut in Melbourne next weekend.
The Silverstone shakedown, part of a promotional event ahead of the car's departure for the Australian Grand Prix, will provide both team and driver with vital information on the new machine, which has been conceived after a ground-up re-evaluation of the way Marussia designs its racing cars. As such, the car is almost entirely new, with very few carry-over components from last year's Marussia Virgin MVR-02.
The desire to make a clean break from the previous CFD-only creations presented the design team, led by technical consultant Pat Symonds, with the challenge of going back to basics to produce a solid mechanical package, whilst maintaining an eye towards achieving the incremental performance steps required to move the team forward.
The starting point for the design programme was a consideration of the people and resources available to the Banbury-based team. The former three-base operation has been consolidated into one site, the Marussia Technical Centre in Banbury, bringing the various elements of the business together to form 'one team'. In particular, the design department and practices now benefit from far greater integration and collaboration. Furthermore, the aerodynamic department has been completely restructured and the aero methodology reinforced, blurring the boundaries between CFD and experimental work in the wind tunnel, as well as enhancing the fidelity of the team's aero approach.
The technical partnership forged with McLaren Applied Technologies in July of last year has also been influential in the design process and the relationship is starting to yield benefit as the advanced facilities that the Marussia team has access to have been used to prove the correlation process with the MVR-02. It is however early in the relationship and the MR01 will become a beneficiary of the relationship in due course.
The key design priorities were to address previous aerodynamic deficiencies and, mechanically, achieve greater weight saving. At the same time, a lot of the detail of the car has been refined and the design team have been a little more adventurous than before, stepping closer to the engineering boundaries. The car can best be described as a significant evolution of its predecessors. The relationship with McLaren is also evident, as the MR01 is only the second car launched this season, after the Woking giant's MP4-27, to eschew the stepped nose concept favoured by the rest of the field.
“We are very pleased to be running the new MR01 for the first time this morning," team principal John Booth admitted, "It has been a long and frustrating wait for everyone in the team, but we can now get back on track – literally – and start working towards the first race of the season in Australia next weekend.
"Today is the first of two promotional events, so while the drivers will be able to get a feel for the car, they won't be able to draw any real conclusions until we start running in anger in Melbourne. Nevertheless, this is an important day for us and we'll enjoy every minute on track with the new car.”
Glock turned the first laps with the MR01, beginning his third season with the team and providing the all-important element of continuity required to keep moving the package forward. He is joined in 2012 by Frenchman Pic, who embarks on his rookie year in F1, having made the step up from GP2 to replace Belgium's Jerome d'Ambrosio. Both drivers will get track time with the new car over the next two days, albeit running on demonstration tyres as opposed to the Pirelli P-Zeros that they will use once competition starts in Melbourne.