Virgin Racing experienced a tumultuous race in today's Australian Grand Prix, one which ultimately ended in retirement for both Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi.
The Virgin Racing cars lined up for the start of the 58-lap race in the pit lane, after changing the collectors in both fuel systems following yesterday's fuel pick-up problem. The 'will it? -- won't it?' weather conditions fired enough of a warning salvo to make most of the field decide to opt for intermediate tyres and it was definitely raining as the race got underway, although a full-blown downpour never materialised.
The start procedure worked well and Timo and Lucas avoided getting caught up in the first lap mayhem. The highlight of the opening laps was most definitely a lap 5 tussle with Michael Schumacher as he was working his way back up the field after an early pit stop. Timo in particular fought hard to keep him at bay and having been passed once he decided to have another go and retook Michael until giving way to the seven time world champion became inevitable. It was fun while it lasted!
"The start of the race was okay. After leaving the pit lane I was able to catch up Chandok and some other cars and we had a bit of fun fighting with Michael. The car felt reasonably good in the wet and dry conditions. It was a little busy with all the traffic when we became lapped. So it was a real shame that we had a problem just 15 laps from the end of the race when I started to feel that there was something wrong with the way the car was feeling. I came in and we found a problem which we now know to be a camber shim having worked loose, and this was causing the suspension to move around on the left rear. Had we not had the suspension issue I think we would have been looking good for our first chequered flag. So we have to take the positives and see that in some ways we have made progress, albeit there is still a lot of work ahead."
Lucas di Grassi:
"The early part of the race was okay for me. The car was behaving quite well at the beginning. Unfortunately, we didn't time the strategy well to change to slicks but otherwise things were going okay. So it's a shame that we were hit by another problem - a hydraulic problem -- and we had to retire after 26 laps. For sure we will find the problem, fix it and be better for the next race. These are small steps that maybe other people can't see but they are good steps for us. We are working very hard to improve our situation and I have confidence that we will."
Nick Wirth, Technical Director:
"With the fuel pick-up problems we'd seen on Saturday, it was unfortunately necessary for us to break Parc Ferme this morning and convert our fuel system back to the specification that we had tested on Friday, albeit with further modifications. The team did a great job to get that done in time as we weren't allowed to start that work until midday today. Both cars therefore had to start from the pit lane and we were immediately into a very aggressive fuel-saving strategy, which we'd practised in the Simulators last week. The drivers and the team coped well with the unusual driving style that this called for, as well as the tricky conditions, and overall they both did a brilliant job for the team today. Lucas' race ended with an internal hydraulic leak, the cause of which we have yet to identify. We got to 70% distance with Timo and were on target to finish the race fuel-wise when it seems that a rear suspension bracket came loose and allowed some setting shims to eventually fall out, which ended his race. So ultimately we leave here yet to finish our first Grand Prix but with clear signs that our performance is improving."
John Booth, Team Principal:
"Today I'd like to applaud the team on a terrific job in the face of a challenging set of circumstances, at the end of a difficult weekend. The start from the pit lane was seamless and the boys were 'on it' in our first live pit stops. We got to almost half distance with Lucas and nearly three-quarters of the race with Timo and with the problems we've had I am very proud of the way the team have coped. We can go into Malaysia with our heads held high and knowing that things will get better as we get more of the season under our belts."