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F1 Advent Calendar 2010 (Day 10) - Longer in more ways - The Virgin Racing team recover from an early design mistake

Published by Christine

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Hello, you're listening to Sidepodcast and this is the F1 Advent Calendar 2010 - we're on Day 10 - double figures! Each day we are reviewing a key moment in the season just gone. So far we've had comebacks and disappointments, we've featured communication and strategy decisions. Today we're moving on Day 10 - Longer in more ways.

In an earlier show, I mentioned that Virgin Racing built their fuel tank too small to finish races, and ahead of the Spanish GP they were allowed to modify it. Let us rewind a little though.

Virgin Racing were and still are very, very proud of the fact their car is designed solely by CFD. Rather than complementing the computer designs with wind-tunnel testing, Virgin are saving money and perhaps the environment, by using the computational fluid dynamics solo. When the car was first unveiled, it did look a little different to the current fleet of F1 cars, with a much narrower and pointier nose. It’s hard to tell if the design worked, given how slow all of the new teams were, however Virgin did finish the championship last.

It wasn't until the car hit the track, that the fuel tank issue surfaced. After the Bahrain race opened the season - in which both cars retired for non-fuel related issues - Technical Director Nick Wirth said: "It has become clear during pre-season testing and our debut race in Bahrain that our fuel tank capacity is marginal and if not addressed there is the possibility that fuel pick-up could become an issue in certain circumstances." Even if they stuck to low consumption racing, it was still an added problem that the strategists really didn't need to worry about.

The team immediately applied to the FIA to be allowed to modify the chassis - after homologation takes place big changes to the fuel tank and the surrounding areas are not allowed. Meanwhile, the cars continued to race - with a double DNF in Australia, and Lucas di Grassi finishing 14th in Malaysia... albeit three laps down on everyone else.

The changes were ready ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, and the modifications were made at the expense of Wirth Research company, those that had made the major design error in the first place. It was a matter of lengthening the wheelbase of the car, to then allow for the fuel tank to be expanded slightly.

Unfortunately, their timing was quite poor, as the upgrades were ready right around the time that a volcano in Iceland erupted and caused travel chaos. There were delays getting the cars back from the Chinese GP, which meant that only one of them was ready to head on to Barcelona, and Timo Glock was the lucky recipient. Lucas di Grassi admitted he was disappointed, but I think by then, it was a case of "I've waited four races, I can wait another one!"

In the end, he had to wait two, as the second Virgin car was ready to go ahead of the Turkish GP, leaving Lucas in the old chassis for Monaco as well. They had some fixes to do for a few problems with the new car, including some braking issues and making sure it complied with weight requirements. Eventually, though, both drivers were in the new chassis. Nick Wirth was confident that the differences brought them half a second before the problems were fixed, so goodness knows what lofty heights they could get to. For the drivers, it was a weight off their minds. No more worrying about having to save fuel.

That's all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2010. I hope you're enjoying the show and will be back here again tomorrow when I roll out Day 11. See you then.

All content in the series F1 Advent Calendar 2010