Testing Times: Virgin Racing Gives Us a Taste Of The New Boys

Tom KnightCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2010

Four full days of testing for the 2010 season and there is plenty to talk about already. The return of Schumacher, Alonso in a Ferrari, V-noses, and aero paint to name but a few but one of the most intriguing to and easily accessible stories is that of the new teams. Of course as it stands there are seven ‘new’ teams if you include teams who have re-branded or had significant behind the scenes changes, but for now I’m referring to the out and out new teams - Virgin Racing, Campos Meta, Lotus F1 and US F1.

As of today Virgin Racing are the only new team to have tested, in their two days testing Timo Glock has completed 16 laps of Jerez, Fernando Alonso completed 217 laps. I’m not criticising Virgin, but they were 10 seconds off the final fastest lap, even if you allow for the track drying up slightly they were 7 seconds from the next driver, so should we be concerned about the other three teams who are yet to clock up any test mileage? Yes and no.

Lotus is expected to launch shortly and whilst the leaked pictures of their shakedown show a pretty staple F1 shaped car I find more solace in remembering that Mike Gascoigne and Jarno Trulli involved.

My main concerns are Campos and USF1, neither of which have confirmed launch dates, the FIA are sending out all sorts of mixed messages regarding how late they can join the season, neither have full driver line ups confirmed. That last one is most worrying, even if both teams turn up to the first race they lack F1 experienced drivers, you have to worry having seen how off the pace Alguersuari was in an established team when he started in Toro Rosso, a rookie driver will be off the pace, a rookie car will be off the pace, and a rookie car receiving limited driver feedback due to their inexperience might not be going anywhere very quickly. If anyone remembers the Mastercard Lola team who turned up for two races in 1997, qualified for neither and left, I fear both of these teams could do similar.

To return to Virgin briefly, they’ve prided themselves on their entirely CFD designed car, an approach used by the same team when designing the Acura LMP that won the American Le Mans Series, but it will be interesting to see how that car compares to the Williams once their test mileage is a little longer, considering they use the same engine.

I think a large issue is testing, if testing hadn’t become so sparse then these new teams may have completed tests far earlier with far less refined versions of what would be on the grid in March but tested none the less, I know the argument that it wouldn’t be fair due to costs and big teams exploiting it, but I think I’d rather it that way.

Image: Timo Glock, Virgin Racing, Jerez 2010

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