Coming into the 2011 season, everything looked to moving in the right direction for the Dinnington based team. Russian car makers Marussai had bought a controlling stake in the team, safeguarding the future of the team until 2014. The team had veteran driver Timo Glock retained for the season, partnered with young Belgian Jerome d’ Ambrosio.
Going into Melbourne team principle, John Booth, was talking up the team’s chances after covering more than twice the testing mileage compared to 2010. “Today we conclude not only the Barcelona programme but our entire pre-season testing programme and what I think we take away most from this experience is just how far we’ve come in the space of 12 months. The difference between our 2010 and 2011 programmes is huge and whilst there is still some way to go in terms of performance, I think we can feel justifiably proud of how we have grown into a professional racing operation.”
It didn’t take long into the first GP weekend to see that they still had a substantial deficit to their nearest rivals Team Lotus. Both cars made it through qualifying to start on the back row in the absence of the two HRTs. In the race, d’ Ambrosio brought the car home an impressive 14th on his debut for the team albeit two seconds off of the pace of the Team Lotus of Jarnu Trulli.
It soon became apparent that the teams pre-season optimism had been misplaced and were in fact again stuck in a battle for 11th place with the Hispania team who gradually started to out qualify them. In a bid to halt the decline of the season before it had got into full swing John Booth instigated an internal review of operations, bringing in former Renault technical director Pat Symonds as a consultant to oversee it. Shortly after the Monaco Grand Prix it was announced that Marussai Virgin was ending its ties with technical director Nick Wirth and his company Wirth Research. A move which sees them move away from their CDF only design policy . “The decision has been taken that the team will take greater control of its own destiny” said Marussia Virgin CEO Andy Webb to Autosport. “Accordingly, having consulted with our existing technical partner during the course of the past few weeks, we have been obliged to terminate our relationship with them.”
Virgin also announced that Pat Symonds would continue his role as technical consultant (he can’t be directly employed by a team until 2012 due to his involvement in the crashgate scandal). As the team has abandoned using CFD as its sole R&D tool, they have signed an agreement with McLaren to use their technical facilities, simulators and wind tunnel.
Going into the last 8 races of the season, MVR face a massive task to overturn HRT in the constructors championship, the team have been frantically recruiting a new technical team since June and I’m sure their focus will now be on the 2012 car.