Virgin Racing ready for Malaysia challenge

"An early opportunity to put to the test our continual development of the VR-01"


By Franck Drui

1 April 2010 - 08:12
Virgin Racing ready for Malaysia (...)

Some like it hot! And it’s just as well, because on that score the Malaysian Grand Prix never fails to deliver.

No sooner had the chequered flag been waved in Australia than the F1 Paddock was packed up and sent on its way to Kuala Lumpur for Round Three of the Formula 1 World Championship, which takes place just seven days later.

The 3.444 mile, 15-turn Sepang circuit near KL is where it’s at, a venue renowned for its tropical conditions and heavy downpours. These often have a hand in the outcome of the race and this time last year, the race had to be stopped when the track became more of a sea than a river. When it’s not raining, the intense heat can really put the car’s cooling systems to the test, not to mention the drivers, for whom Malaysia is one race that provides the acid test of their fitness levels.

Timo Glock: “For me, Sepang is a good track when the weather is dry. The heat and humidity are quite punishing and we would normally have two weeks to fully acclimatise to be ready for track and cockpit conditions of over 50°C. Plus you have the additional factor of humidity, which can be around 70%, so the cockpit can be a pretty uncomfortable place to be. It’s one race where you don’t want your drinks bottle to run out, although it’s a bit like drinking English tea anyway because, try as we do, we can never get the liquid to stay cool. When we have weather like we saw last year through the practice sessions, it’s impossible to prepare well and obviously if it rains during the race on that scale, you’re just a passenger in your own car.

“It will be interesting to see how different it is to race here with the heavy fuel, especially through the nice quick corners, although there are mix of low, medium and high speed corners which make this a challenging track generally. Apart from that I’m hoping we can have a better weekend. Everything was going well until I had my suspension problem, and we are starting to get on top of our issues as they arise. We have good pace and if we can continue to improve our reliability then I’m confident we will be in a better place by the time we get to Europe. In the meantime, every session at every race weekend counts and we have some good developments to evaluate here in Sepang this weekend.”

Lucas di Grassi: “Last weekend was disappointing for me because of the reliability problems we had. However, we have to move on and focus on better things to come. The guys are pushing really hard and we are improving all the time, sometimes in ways that may not be visible to anyone outside of the team because the problems are what other people see.

“Our obvious target here is to finish the race and we will be doing everything possible through the weekend to work towards achieving that. It will be an interesting challenge for the car and for me, as it’s a real test of what heat and humidity can do to both of us! On my side it’s the tougher races like this that make all the physical training worthwhile and it really brings home to us why we push ourselves so hard. For the car I think Bahrain was a good test of the cooling and we don’t expect any problems. I’m looking forward to my first Malaysian Grand Prix.”

Nick Wirth, Technical Director: “We’re looking forward to Malaysia as it provides us an early opportunity to put to the test our continual development of the VR-01. It’s been quite a challenge with the quick turnaround from the Melbourne race – for instance we had just five hours to strip the cars and the garage after the last race before the freight departed, which meant that we had to work quickly to diagnose the issues.

“Nevertheless, we’re ready to start Sepang with further revisions to our car to cover the recent problems, with the total focus on getting to the chequered flag, via a smooth weekend on both cars. The track itself is very different to the first two races with a different demand on car performance, so it’ll be interesting to see how we get on in this respect. As ever, we’ve prepared our drivers well on the Wirth Research Simulators, although their driving skills may well be tested to the limit with the prospect of afternoon rain for qualifying and the race.”

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