Lucas di Grassi believes this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix will give Virgin a vital chance to jump ahead of its fellow new teams.
Lotus, Hispania and Virgin are currently fighting for the lucrative 10th place in the constructors' championship, which is set to be decided by highest race finishes unless one of the trio can get into the points in one of the remaining races. The position is currently held by Lotus thanks to Heikki Kovalainen's 13th place in Melbourne.
Virgin is introducing several updates for Singapore, and di Grassi hopes that the combination of a performance boost and the chances of a chaotic race on the street track could give his team a shot at taking the top-12 race finish it requires to vault ahead of Lotus and Hispania.
"If one of the new teams gets a 12th, then they will move up into the 10th place. So, it is a very important weekend for us," he told AUTOSPORT. "I was just discussing with the engineers today how much we have for here, and how big are the upgrades. We hope it is enough so we can fight with Lotus, and then I think the full approach is to stay ahead of the new teams – and, if extraordinary conditions happen, then I hope we can get the best place possible.
"Here is maybe the longest race of the year, because it is a 300km race and the average speed is very low – and it is very hot as well. So, I think reliability is an issue here. Race incidents and accidents are another point, and the weather can change as well. So it is one of the races where we have maybe the highest chance to finish in the top 12."
Di Grassi will have to hand his car to Jerome d'Ambrosio for opening practice on Friday as part of Virgin's new deal with the Belgian GP2 graduate, and he admitted that the loss of mileage could hurt this weekend.
"Of course, it is not ideal, but the team has made that decision and I fully respect it," di Grassi said. "On other tracks I would not mind missing FP1 if I knew the track, but, of course, at Singapore I will lose track time, so will lose the ability to learn the track – and there is even a situation where it could rain for FP2. But, at the same time, I am confident with the upgrades, and with the correct approach, I can take the best out of this weekend."
D'Ambrosio is believed to be a candidate for a race seat with Virgin for 2011, and with the team adamant that Timo Glock will stay on, di Grassi is the driver whose position could be in jeopardy. But the Brazilian said he was not worried about his F1 future.
"I am very confident for my future in F1," di Grassi insisted. "It will always depend on the driver market, but I am very happy with the Virgin Racing team. We have done a lot of work, more than people realize, for this year, and it would be normal to have a continuation with them. But, of course, I am talking to some other teams and seeing what other opportunities there are."