Virgin is considering a 'plan B' should a car upgrade for the Turkish Grand Prix not result in a major step forward.
That is the claim of Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, after it emerged the British team actually took a step backwards in Australia following a difficult debut campaign in 2010.
The report said the new MVR02 car was about a second slower than the team's average deficit to pole position of last year, meaning that in Melbourne Timo Glock and Jerome d'Ambrosio were threatened by the 107 per cent qualifying rule.
And they could be set for more pain in Malaysia and China.
"This round of long-haul races means there are few developments we can bring to the car until the next significant upgrade for Turkey," confirmed team boss John Booth.
Force India test driver Nico Hulkenberg said Virgin's problem is easy to spot.
"They have not enough downforce, especially at the rear," he said.
The German report said one problem could be designer Nick Wirth's use of a very long engine exhaust, resulting in a loss of horse power, but without compensating in cornering speed by blowing the exhaust a long distance under the car.
They have not enough downforce, especially at the rear
"Nick seems to have miscalculated something," said an insider.
For Istanbul next month, Wirth's upgrade includes a new exhaust, diffuser and rear wing, but it is believed the team is already considering a 'plan B' for future car development should that effort fail.
"The team needs to think about certain things and change them," Glock is quoted by sport1.de. "We cannot continue like this."
One possible area for a re-think is Wirth's commitment to using computer CFD simulation but not a traditional wind tunnel.
Glock said: "Other teams also use CFD but in addition to the wind tunnel."