Introduction It was always the wish of former FIA president Max Mosley to get some fresh blood in Formula One, he predicted that the manufacturer teams would leave Formula One as a result of the economic recession, and unfortunately he was right.
It was always the wish of former FIA president Max Mosley to get some fresh blood in Formula One, he predicted that the manufacturer teams would leave Formula One as a result of the economic recession, and unfortunately he was right. Honda, Toyota and BMW have turned their back to Formula One, only car manufacturers Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari will be present at the Grand Prix circuits in 2010. However, Renault sold out to investor Genii and is therefore not a real manufacturer team anymore.
Peter Sauber managed to save the BMW team and they will be competing under the BMW-Sauber name. Without the new teams there would only be nine teams or 18 cars at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14th. It could have been worse, without the rescue of Renault and Sauber, only seven teams with 14 cars would compete in 2010. It seems I owe Mr. Mosley an apology for not sharing his skeptic, but correct view on the manufacturer teams as he expressed earlier in 2009.
If we go back to 1989 and 1990, we will find a record number of teams in Formula One, twenty teams raced during those two seasons. A few names from those days: Lola, Eurobrun, March, Osella, Dallara, Minardi, Onyx, AGS and Coloni. With so many teams, the FIA was even forced to organize pre-qualifications with four drivers eliminated after pre-qualifying, and after the normal qualification another four drivers were eliminated. Like it is in the current format, only 26 cars were allowed on the start grid in those days. Engine builder Cosworth supplied 10 out of those 20 teams in 1990, in 2010 Cosworth will supply five teams: Williams and the four new teams.
In 2009 the FIA admitted the four new teams: Lotus F1, Virgin Racing, US F1 Team and Campos Meta. Let's now take a closer look at these new teams and the people who are behind each of them. In this second of the four articles, we will examine Virgin Racing.
In December 2009, after a big financial injection from Richard Branson's Virgin empire,which forged the team's current name, it had originally entered Formula One under the name Manor Grand Prix. The team has its headquarters in Dinnington, England and Nick Wirth's company Wirth Research will develop and build the car from its base in Bicester.
Alex Tai: "Virgin Racing is a real racing team founded by real racers and which has a very clearly defined path towards achieving success. This will be our core focus, but at the same time we intend to be a team which has great spirit. We are looking to make a big contribution to the sport and its fans. I am full of excitement and optimism about what we can achieve together."
The team also has plans to create a "Driver Academy", a series of racing teams starting in the lowest formula and advancing all the way up to Formula One.
Team principal Alex Tai is a real airman, he attended the RAF College at Cranwell, UK. He combined business with flying, and in 1995 he was flying an Airbus A340s for Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic airline. This was the start of Alex Tai's close working relationship with the Virgin boss. In 2004 he got involved in the Virgin Galactic project, a company that organises commercial flights into space. In 2010 he will be, this time with both feet firmly on the ground, leading the Virgin Racing team.
Sporting director John Booth was a racing driver himself from the end of the 1970s until 1989. After that he founded Manor Motorsport and his team raced in the Formula Renault series and later switched to Formula 3. Manor Motorsport became one of the very best teams in national and international motor racing and former Formula One champions Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton started their careers at Manor Racing.
Wirth is the former owner of the Simtek Formula One team, active during the 1993-1995 seasons. He started his career as an aerodynamicist for March Engineering, and was responsible for the design of the 1988-1989 Leyton House Formula One car. Wirth was also aerodynamicist and chief designer for the Benetton Formula One team from 1996 until 1999.
Racing director Graeme Lowden co-founded Eiger Racing, a Formula Renault racing team, and for years he was in fact racing against Manor Motorsport, but in 2000 he joined the Manor team. Lowden's company Nomad Digital is a specialist in providing WiFi for the transportation sector, and it will be no surprise that Virgin Trains is one of their customers. In early 2009, Lowden was considering the best way to move Manor Motorsport forward, and after a meeting with Wirth, Manor submitted their entry to the FIA, which was accepted in July 2009.
The car and the aerodynamic parts have been designed with the aid of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). It's the first time in history that a complete Formula One car has been build relying solely on this technique, rather than using a traditional wind tunnel. Technical director Wirth firmly believes in the future of the CFD design technique, and thinks it will save the team a lot of money. The team has not published any pictures or videos of the car. They are sofar the only team which hasn't made any announcements regarding their presence at the testing days in February in Spain.
This concludes the review about Virgin Racing, tomorrow we will take a look at the new US F1 Team.
Editor's note: Since the posting of Virgin Racing, the team released Team Principal Alex Tai and announced John Booth, who was named as sporting director, to the position of team principal.
Please see Virgin replaces team boss Alex Tai