Timo Glock has stressed that whilst it might have professed tongue-in-cheek at its distinctly rock n' roll launch that it intends to steal away Red Bull's crown as the 'fun' team in Formula 1, Virgin Racing is very serious indeed about earning the respect of its rivals when it makes its debut in the top flight in 2010.
One of the worst-kept secrets of the close-season was finally confirmed earlier this week with the news that F1 2010 newcomer Manor Grand Prix had become Virgin Racing – and the fact that the Sheffield and Bicester-based outfit has recruited Toyota refugee Glock to lead its driving line-up alongside GP2 Series graduate Lucas Di Grassi is already a sign that the team does not intend to be toiling away down at the wrong end of the field in its maiden campaign at the highest level.
What's more, whilst some of the other 2010 arrivals – composed of USF1, Lotus F1 and Campos Meta 1 – have made clear that a key goal is to be the best of the new boys next year, Virgin has indulged in no such verbal bravado, preferring instead to get quietly on with the job, ironically somewhat at odds with the loud, brash, outgoing image created by the brand's founder and supremo Sir Richard Branson.
Indeed, Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes has even gone so far as to quip that he will have no choice but to 'retire and kill himself' should his team fail to finish ahead of that of his fellow airline chief in its first season, but whilst there may be some honour in beating the other debutants, Glock acknowledges, there will be far more honour still in taking the fight to some of the paddock's more established competitors.
“I think it's one of the targets for 2010, to be the best of the new teams,” the German confessed, speaking to Crash.net Radio
, “but if you go to the company and see the people, that's not the target for them – they want to progress [and] in the middle of the season maybe be fighting for points or the top ten. I think you have to be realistic, but everyone is focussed on fighting for points.
“2010 will be a difficult year for us; it's the first year, we have to get to know each other and overall I would say the target is to earn the respect of everyone else. Everyone has seen now that we are serious, and for me the main point is that in terms of progress, the curve has to always be going upwards. If it flattens out, I won't be happy and I will push as hard as possible to bring it up again.
“If we continue to develop in a really strong way, then I will be happy, but the question mark is 'where is our starting point in 2010?' If we start high up I will be really, really happy, but if we start lower, then we have to work as hard as possible to turn it around.
“When I was in Abu Dhabi everyone was talking about the new teams, saying they will maybe not be on the grid and that they aren't serious and stuff like this, but I went to Nick Wirth's company and was looking around – and I realised that it really, really is serious what's going on here. Now, I think everyone knows that Virgin Racing is a serious team and they want to be in F1 and they want to succeed in the future. I'm happy to be on-board.
“At the launch we already had a battle between Tony Fernandes and Richard Branson, so I can't wait to see what will go on during the year and at all the races. I think we'll have fun, and hopefully we can fight against Red Bull on-track – and maybe in the hospitality area as well!”
An added benefit is that Glock knows Di Grassi well from their time spent together in GP2, most notably duelling for the title in 2007 – a battle that the Lindenfels native won by eleven points. Moreover, at just 27 he will incredibly be the oldest member of a very young, four-strong driver line-up – including test and reserve drivers Alvaro Parente and Luiz Razia – but then that, he reasons, is what makes Virgin stand out from the crowd all-round.
“Lucas and I had a really, really fair fight,” he recalled of the pair's GP2 squabbles. “I like him as a driver, and as a person he's a really relaxed guy. He's really quick – he won Macau in F3, which is a benchmark, and he beat [Robert] Kubica – and I'm looking forward to it. He has a lot of experience from Renault, which is positive for us, so I'm happy to have him as a team-mate and I think that's quite a nice driver line-up for us in the first year.
“I'm the oldest of the drivers, which is a strange feeling, but that's just a feature of Virgin – in the whole team there are a lot of experienced guys as well as young people. The mix is really, really good.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE