Jerome D’Ambrosio has been confirmed as the second driver at the Marussia Virgin Racing team for the 2011 season.
The Belgian driver, who tested with both Virgin and Renault at the recent rookie tests in Abu Dhabi, will take over the race seat from ousted 2010 driver Lucas di Grassi. D’Ambrosio clearly did enough to impress the team during the test and as expected takes the race seat.
Timo Glock will race alongside Jerome at the team, which is now receiving backing from Marussia a Russian sportscar manufacturer.
Speaking about the deal, D’Ambrosio said: “I’m thrilled to have achieved my goal of a Formula 1 race seat with Marussia Virgin Racing.
“When I came to the team in September this year it was everything I could hope for. I had a tough test to complete because there was a lot of competition for this seat, but at the same time I got on well with the team and felt that I had found my home.
“I feel very comfortable with them – they are extremely professional and ambitious people and it is exciting to think that I can be a part of shaping the team’s future.”
Russian sportscar company, Marussia Motors, have bought a major stake in the Virgin Racing team, securing its future.
The Virgin team joined Formula One this season, and have struggled somewhat to make an impact so far. Marussia have been a partner since the formation of the team, their logos appearing on both cars and drivers.
The team will now be known as Marussia Virgin Racing.
“Our first year in Formula 1 was always going to be tough – even more so as we were launching in the midst of a worldwide recession,” said Virgin chief Richard Branson.
“Virgin is delighted to have secured a partner which shares our vision and spirit for challenging the establishment and we look forward to working together to move the team up the F1 grid.”
Graeme Lowdon, CEO of Virgin Racing, added: “This announcement cements our place on the F1 grid and is testimony to the hard work and dedication of every single member of our team.”
Meanwhile the deal has spiced up speculation about the teams second driver. While John Booth says the team are in no hurry to decide upon a second driver to partner Timo Glock next season, multiple names are being linked with the seat. These include current driver Lucas di Grassi, Jerome D’Ambrosio and Giedo va der Garde.
The deal with a Russian manufacturer has made some sources link out of favour Renault driver Vitaly Petrov with the seat, but Booth says a Russian racer in the team is some way off yet.
“There is nothing on the horizon for a Russian driver at the moment, but they have come on in leaps and bounds over the last five years,” he said. “We have [Vitaly] Petrov in F1 and [Mikhail] Aleshin in World Series, so Russian drivers are going from strength to strength.”
Virgin Racing’s first ever Formula One car, the VR-01 was shakendown at a brief test at Silverstone yesterday.
The new car, which has been developed through Nick Wirth’s dveelopment team at Manor racing took tentative steps out onto the damp cold circuit in a momentous occassion met with raptuous applause and delight from the mechanics.
The team were originally scheduled to enter F1 under the Manor name before Richard Branson came in with sponsorship and funding in exchange for a large stake of the team.
“After 10 challenging months, all the commitment and determination has finally paid off,” said Nick Wirth, Virgin’s technical director.
“Today was all about those tentative first few steps but the programme really gets underway tomorrow with a full day of on-track evaluation for both Timo and Lucas [di Grassi].”
Timo Glock took the car out yesterday and new f1 driver Lucas di Grassi gets his hands on it today at the British based circuit.
Virgin Racing have launched their new car, the first of the “new teams” to do so with the covers finally coming off the VR-01 today.
The launch was supposed to be broadcast live, but a major technical glitch left fans and reporters sat watching a black screen, and the joke was most certainly on Virgin who beamed about their car being designed exclusively on computers – and they couldn’t even get a video stream working.
Nevertheless we finally saw the new car which is quite a looker, in a black and red livery quite similar to the former Midland F1 cars of 2006.
The sponsors are there, which makes a change to some of the more recent launches.
“Today is a very proud day for everyone involved with Virgin Racing, however on this occasion, where the car is the star, I want to pay tribute to all the amazing people at Wirth Research who deserve so much of the credit for the VR-01,” said designer Nick Wirth.
“Putting together an F1 team, assembling an engineering group and designing a new car from scratch is an epic task in the timeframe we have been working to.
“I have been fortunate to have worked with the very best designers in F1 and I am well aware of exactly what it takes to be successful in this sport. When you see what the existing teams have achieved using the conventional but proven design approach, it is unsurprising that there is a great deal of scepticism about our all-CFD approach.
“But we are competing in a sport that is undergoing significant change having come face to face with today’s harsh economic realities. Under resource restriction, convention will become too costly and necessity really will be the mother of invention. I have absolute belief in the digital design process and the opportunity to put the all-CFD approach to the test at the highest level – to demonstrate that this could be the way for the future of F1 – is very, very exciting.”
Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi will be driving the car, originally bought into F1 under the Manor moniker and now known as Virgin from Richard Branson’s business group.
Virgin Racing has officially launched its new F1 programme in London today.
The team, originally known as Manor GP, will be backed heavily by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The British born businessman was very interested in brand exposure through F1, following a successful sponsorship year with the Brawn GP team.
The “worst kept secret” in the world as it was joked was confirmed as the team took the opportunity to show off their drivers, logo and also have a chat with the world’s media at a lavish morning in Notting Hill.
Timo Glock was confirmed as a driver some weeks ago, but Lucas Di Grassi comes to the team with a deal penned in the past few days – he tested with Renault recently at Jerez.
He comes from success in GP2.
“It feels great to be here, it’s a dream come true for me after two years of being a test driver, and from that and from GP2 I feel I’m ready and am very confident in this team,” said di Grassi.
“We’re here to race, not to do politics or mess around, we’re here to race.”
The team also confirmed their test drivers as Alvaro Parente and Luiz Razia.
“I’m going to do my best to do a good job. It’s great to be with this team and there’s going to be a lot of success.” Parente said
The team’s sporting director John Booth said he was delighted with the line-up.
“I have 20 years’ experience working with drivers,” he said. “I have been privileged to work with some fantastic drivers in that time and I hope that’s helped in giving me an eye for a good driver.
“The four drivers we have here are the four we wanted in our line-up, they’re the perfect drivers.”
The colours of the team appear to be black with white and dashes of red.
German Touring Car racer Gary Paffett was fastest on the second day of rookie testing at Jerez.
The Brit completed a fastest lap of 1.18.718 which was just under half a second faster than second placed man Nico Hulkenberg, who is a confirmed race driver with the Williams team for 2010.
In third was Daniel Ricciardo, the British F3 champion having a positive day. Paul di Resta was down in 4th, but still much faster than Force India test driver competitor JR Hildebrand who was 8th. Splitting those two were Esteban Gutierrez, Mike Conway and Marcus Ericsson.
Ferrari’s new signing Jules Bianchi was down in 9th, but put plenty of laps on the board ahead of Lucas di Grassi and Ho-Pin Tung.
Last was Mirko Bortolotti in the Toro Rosso who had a technical problem and caused the days only red flag when he accidentally pushed a button which shut down the gear change system.
Pos Driver Car Time Gap Laps 1. Paffett McLaren 1m18.718s 80 2. Hulkenberg Williams 1m19.184s + 0.466s 94 3. Ricciardo Red Bull 1m19.243s + 0.526s 93 4. Di Resta Force India 1m19.411s + 0.693s 58 5. Gutierrez Sauber 1m20.190s + 1.472s 68 6. Conway Brawn 1m20.222s + 1.504s 83 7. Ericsson Brawn 1m20.440s + 1.722s 37 8. Hildebrand Force India 1m20.517s + 1.799s 50 9. Bianchi Ferrari 1m20.585s + 1.868s 113 10. Di Grassi Renault 1m20.898s + 2.180s 55 11. Tung Renault 1m21.492s + 2.774s 67 12. Bortolotti Toro Rosso 1m21.761s + 3.043s 69
In other testing news Betrand Baguette the highly rated Belgian will get another taste of F1 tomorrow, this time with the Sauber team.
The 23 year old drove on the first day of testing with Renault, his prize for winning the 3.5 Renault World Series championship.
“I am very happy to be able to drive for Sauber,” Baguette told AUTOSPORT. “It will be a second day for me – and it’s always good to get two days of testing instead of one.
“It will be very interesting to compare the differences between the two teams and the two cars.”
Former Renault drivers Nelson Piquet Jr, and Lucas di Grassi are said to be weighing up their options for the 2010 season of racing.
Lucas di Grassi claims that he is likely to land the second race seat at Manor Grand Prix. The small new team, who will be powered by Cosworth engines, announced Toyota refugee Timo Glock as their first driver yesterday.
Di Grassi claims there are a lot of guys looking at that team, but that he has a good chance and should find out his fate this week.
“My chances of landing a deal with team Manor are good,” di Grassi is quoted as saying by Autosport.
“They have a couple of guys they are looking at for next year, and I am one of them,” the 25-year-old, who was Renault’s third driver for the 2009 season.
Meanwhile disgraced former Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr, says that he could be heading to NASCAR or potentially back into Formula One for 2010.
Piquet, who was given political immunity for testifying against Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds in the infamous crash-gate where Piquet deliberately smashed his Renault F1 car into a wall at the 2008 Singaporean Grand Prix is not likely to recive a warm welcome back to the paddock.
However he claims Force India are taking an interest in his services. If not, then he see NASCAR as an ideal arena to test his skills.
“I am close to Force India at the moment, but to me NASCAR is very interesting so I don’t know yet what is going to happen,” he is quoted as saying by Brazil’s globo.com.
“I don’t want to take a decision without knowing how things work here in the United States”.
Renault F1 Team will announce their 2009 driver line up tomorrow at a press conference, boss Flavio Briatore said in Brazil.
The team are one of only three left to announce their line ups, with Honda and Scuderia Toro Rosso being the other two.
It is likely that double world champion Fernando Alonso will be the team’s #1, but the big fight is for the second seat with the likely to go to current test driver Lucas di Grassi and not stay with Nelson Piquet who has failed to impress over the course of this season.
“Wednesday is the day. We will announce both drivers on Wednesday.”Briatore told Reuters.