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Richard Branson Unfazed By Diminutive Fuel Tank

Richard Branson Unfazed By Diminutive Fuel Tank

Virgin Racing owner Richard Branson remains resolute that his team can overcome the embarrassment caused by having a less-than-adequate fuel tank in the VR-01, getting behind his squad and speaking of the great challenge that it is to become a successful Formula One outfit. Branson has told the media in Australia that although it would take a few races to resolve, the change in chassis would not cost his team any money as it is a supplier’s problem who have agreed to a redesign at their own expense.

It became public knowledge in Melbourne this weekend that the fuel tank fitted to the VR-01 car was not going to be big enough to store enough fuel for a race distance at some of the fuel-greedy circuits, of which category Albert Park falls into. The error has come about due to the design of the new car – a first in Formula One for solely being completed using CFD – was committed to by Wirth Research before the regulations were adjusted to accommodate the precise rules regarding the ban on in-race refueling.

Of course, one could argue that all the other teams were in the same boat and as of yet, no other squad has come forward to admit they are suffering a similar issue. Despite the embarrassment though, Branson feels it has not damaged his brand’s reputation, although the outfit has suffered other set backs, hydraulics being a buzz-word in the Virgin Racing garage at the moment.

I think all of us around this table know that he [Nick Wirth] has managed to get a car that is the fastest of the new cars, but there is an issue here that is going to take a few races to fix.

It will actually give the car some time to have some practice time – because the new cars were given so little practice time. Over the next five races we will learn more and more about the car.

It also hasn’t cost us anything. I read one or two articles saying it had cost us a lot of money, but it is not going to cost us a thing. It will be the supplier whose issue it is who has agreed to redesign it, so it won’t cost the team anything.

Obviously, we would rather it hadn’t happened, but these things happen and it is F1. It is the birth of a new team and even the most experienced teams have issues, even the most experienced car companies have issues.

I think the Virgin brand has been a challenging underdog brand throughout its history and it will continue to do so. In the end we will get it right, but there are going to be teething problems on the way.

We are still hoping to be the best of the new teams – and we are obviously going to be more challenged. If we can get this problem resolved, and we don’t have an hydraulic problem and we don’t have a gearbox problem, then we know we have a fast car.

A few things need to start going our way. It will also be interesting to see how all the teams perform. Richard Branson.

There are quite a few ifs in that statement, arguably more than I include in the code for this website, and undoubtedly Virgin Racing have suffered a few teething problems. Hydraulic and gearbox issues are still plaguing the squad and once again in Australia Timo Glock and Lucas Di Grassi lost out on valuable track time in the practice sessions.

It would seem the pace of the VR-01 chassis is okay in comparison to the others, and on low-fuel as seen in qualifying, they were ~0.5s shy of the Lotus in Melbourne and ~0.1s up in Bahrain. The battle to be the best of the newcomers will undoubtedly be hotly contested all season, and with pride also on the line between the bosses of Virgin and Lotus, you can be sure all will be done to correct the problem.

Virgin Racing have received special dispensation from the FIA to make adjustments to their chassis, as needed because the cars are homologated at the first race to police developments made during the season. Virgin will be allowed to sort out their fuel tank which depending on how much bigger it needs to be, could have a sizable impact on the car and the way it handles.

Image © Virgin Racing.

Oliver White

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