F1 News, Views and Reviews

Posts tagged “Richard Branson

Marussia Virgin Racing Launch Their 2011 Car

Marussia Virgin Racing have launched their car to take on the 2011 world championship in a lavish London ceremony.

The Marussia name now preceeds Virgin following a major tie up with the Russian sportscar manufacturer and the team at the end of 2010.  It has led to the new car being designated as the MVR-02.

Designed purely by CFD last season, the VR-01 was largely disappointing mostly due to reliability issues, but the Cosworth powered team are hoping for better things this season.  The new car is a clear advancement on last seasons machine, in a similar fashion to Team Lotus, the experience of a season with development has led to a much tighter  overall package being produced.

The Virgin features a much lower front nosecone than we have previously seen, and there is also an interesting exhaust design at the rear of the car – whether that is forcing some form of blown aerodynamics at the rear end we do not know.

Nick Wirth, head of design at the team was clearly very happy with the new car, citing a serious gain in aerodynamic strength and reliability.

“Since the middle of year we worked on process, we calibrated how fast we had to improve and what did we have to work on,” he said.

“We have done a huge amount of development of physics and what we are doing to catch up with everyone.”

“The back of car is heavily regulated from last year, and we managed to take this car and not only catch up where we were, but go above it in terms of aero efficiency – in every single way this car is faster and better than last year.”

The car still retains its red and black paintwork, but this year has some white thrown into the mix to make quite a good looking machine.  Various high profile sponsors including of course Virgin and Marussia, but also QNET and CSC have retained sponsorship with the backmarkers providing a good financial base.

Timo Glock will race the car for a second season alongisde promoted rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio who ousted 2010 racer Lucas di Grassi from the race seat.

Glock, 28, says he is hopeful of a big step forward this season.

“We want to grab points in first races and then work from there,” he said. “We are much more sorted out, more structured, we have one year experience so we should be on a good way.

“But we have to realistic, we were 3-4 seconds off the pace last year and you never catch 3-4 seconds in winter time, so we have to make some improvement and then move up.

“I am hoping for a realistic step. I am happy to do a proper step over the winter with the team together and be strong in first races. When you see back to lots of crashes and technical problems – that is where we struggled last year and that is where we have to be strong.”



Russian Sportscar Manufacturer Secures Virgin Racing Stake

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.”

Wirth Research Set To Move Factories

Wirth Research, the people behind the construction of the Virgin Racing cars are set to move factories over the course of the next few months.

However the move will not be finalised until the chassis for Virgin’s second car, the VR-02 is complete.

Wirth Research created the first F1 car to be designed using total CFD, without the aid of a wind tunnel.  They had intial teething troubles, with a slow car, parts having a habit of falling off but most embarrassing was the fact the new VR-01 car did not have a large enough fuel tank.

“It will be sometime early next year, probably after the F1 car is built,” Wirth told Autosport in an exclusive

“The move starts in the August shutdown and will continue for several months to fit in with the build-up of next year’s F1 car. People who have to stay will stay behind until the car is built and on its way.

“It’s a phased process, but we’re used to working all over the place so it’s not really going to be much of a change.”

The team will be housing themselves in the old Ascari cars factory in Banbury.

“In terms of our business both on the F1 side and on all the other projects, it represents a major step to get everyone into such a great facility that is still in motorsports valley.

“We’re moving everything under one roof. It’s sized and designed to take us to the next level of research and development and the next level of computing power. We literally can’t fit any more computers into where we are now!”

Wirth To Pay For Virgin Fuel Tank Upgrades

Nick Wirth, the head of Wirth Research the group behind the design of Virgin Racing’s VR-01 has said he will personally pick up the bill for the alterations needed to the fuel tanks of the cars in order for them to finish a Grand Prix.

With refuelling banned for the 2010 season, the cars are forced to run the entire race with the full fuel load.  However it emerged in Australia that the Virgin car did not have enough fuel capacity and as a result the entire chassis would need to be changed, an issue which will cost around £1.5million + and not be sorted until the Turkish Grand Prix.

The cars could use techniques used in Sportscar racing to finish races, but Wirth was unwilling for his cars to crawl around some laps in order to get a finish on the boards.   He said he was disappointed with their overall recent performance, citing issues with fuelling in qualifying as more problems.

“The chassis supplier is us. Nothing to do with engine supplier or fuel supplier. What that means is that we are fixing it for the team. We are not charging the team,” Wirth told Autosport Magazine

“It’s our responsibility to provide cars that can finish a grand prix. It’s down to us.

“We are not doing a very good job at the moment, particularly in qualifying, of picking up all the fuel.

“We are at liberty to carry on doing that [using heavy fuel loads]. That doesn’t affect the volume of fuel. But what we are saying is that even if we could pick up every last drop, which we can’t at the moment, we’ve got an issue.”

Wirth (L) under pressure from Richard Branson (R)

Branson Attacks “Sad” Ferrari And Claims His Team Will Beat The Scuderia

Richard Branson, the Virgin magnate who thrust himself upon Formula One with Brawn GP sponsorship last season and now runs his own team through the Manor GP project, claims that criticisms of the new teams by Ferrari is very sad.

Ferrari released an anonymous column on their website last week stating that the new teams were degrading F1, and that the FIA had launched a holy war within Formula One.

Branson claims that the new teams will bring more than Ferrari could imagaine to the sport, make it more competitive and Branson also claims that his Virgin Racing team will beat Ferrari.

“I think that it is a bit sad to see Ferrari carrying on with those kinds of words,” said Branson during a visit to testing at Barcelona on Saturday.

“F1 needs new teams, and Ferrari won the battle of making sure the new teams were shackled. For testing, we built a new car and we are going to have to have exactly the same amount of practice time as Brawn or Ferrari or the others, who have had years and years and years to get their cars to a certain stage.

“We are not complaining about it, and we are happy to go on with it, but Ferrari should be welcoming new teams because they [the new teams] make the sport much more exciting. And we will make them look better for a year or two until we catch them up. Ultimately, I think the new teams will give Ferrari a run for their money and I think will make the sport more exciting – particularly as the budgets come down to more realistic levels.”

Virgin Launch Their Car The VR-01

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 Gets Official Launch As Di Grassi Confirmed As Driver

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.

Branson at the launch

Lauda To Be A Spaceman; Barrichello On Galactic Flight

No, I have not gone completely bonkers, former world champion Niki Lauda is to become a space pilot, and veteran racer Rubens Barrichello is going into space.

It is all part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic scheme, where normal people (for the sum of $200,000) can take a flight into space.  It will start some time next year, early tests with aircraft configurations are in progress and there is said to be a long waiting list.

Virgin are a sponsor to the Brawn GP team and this weekend in Bahrain the two Brawn cars are running with Virgin Galactic logos.

“Rubens has bought a ticket for space, and Niki is going to train to become an astronaut to hopefully fly other people into space one day,” said Branson.

Niki Lauda formerly owned Lauda Air, before it was sold to Austrian Airlines, and now runs Fly Niki.  He is a professioanl airline pilot, and often flies his own jets with payload customers onboard.

“I have been a professional pilot for many years. I fly Boeing and Airbuses and my only dream was to fly the Space Shuttle.

“I was always looking at that, but that was impossible because basically Americans do that. When I saw this project I was the first knocking on the door.”

Lewis Hamilton has apparantly bought himself, his father, brother and girlfriend tickets for one of the first flights.

Barrichellos Brawn car featuring Virgin Galactic logos

Barrichello's Brawn car featuring Virgin Galactic logos

Honda Confirm Branson Interest And Offer For Team

The Honda F1 Team have confirmed that multi-billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson is one of the front-running parites in the purchase of the team ahead of the 2009 season, and has put in an offer.

The owner of the Virgin group was said to be interested yesterday in a leak from the team, but today a spokesman confirmed the rumour.

“We are negotiating with several buyers and one of these parties is the Virgin Group,” a Honda spokesman stated.

“They [Virgin] have made a bid to purchase the team,”

Branson is expected to purchase the team for just £1, but needs to put at least £40million in for one season’s running.  It is believed that after purchase, Branson 58, would leave the running of the team to Nick Fry and Ross Brawn.

His Virgin group would be the leading sponsor on the car.

Branson has dabbled in F1 before, sponsoring Jordan in 2002, and then sponsoring Japanese driver Takuma Sato for the past 4 years with his Virgin Atlantic brand.  It is hot rumour that Sato would be one of the chosen drivers for the new team, alongside Brit Jenson Button.

Hamilton To Spend $1million On Space Flight

New World Champion Lewis Hamilton is clearly keeping his feet on the ground by purchasing 5 tickets for a 2010 Virgin galactic space flight.

The McLaren driver has purchased the tickets for himself, his girlfriend Nicole and 3 members of his family, almost certainly to be his father, brother and one other member.

The flight would take place at some point in 2010 and is said to have set him back a cool $1million.

“Lewis thinks it would be the perfect way to say thank you to Nicole and his family for their support throughout his triumphant year,” said a source.