Timo Glock managed 72 laps in the Virgin VR-01 today and was eighth out of 12 cars –a significant achievement for the new team, which has struggled with reliability problems throughout testing at Jerez so far.
Virgin technical director Nick Wirth gave AUTOSPORT his feedback at the end of Thursday's action.
Q. It's been a long night but it looks as though it paid off because you got some decent miles today...
Nick Wirth: We needed it. Yesterday was a real challenge. The problems we had were tricky, not ones we had experienced before and it just required a lot of thinking. We eventually found the problem, but too late to get going. There was a lot of work last night to fix that problem and get everything ready for today – try and regroup and have a good day today.
Q. Was this a hydraulic problem?
NW: Yeah this was a hydraulic problem yesterday. We know the car is fundamentally sound. Timo [Glock] had a very frustrating week last week, so it was nice to finally get him in, albeit in challenging conditions. He seems to enjoy driving the car; he's got a big smile on his face today. The whole team, everybody put in a continuous effort and it's nice to finally see that rewarded.
Our longest run so far was longer than a grand prix distance, so we found new problems, but it's all about problem solving at this time of year. We found those, fixed them, it's an exciting and challenging engineering process.
Q. So, at the moment it's just about putting miles on the car, it's not about chasing setups?
NW: Yeah, with this weather it's just impossible [to chase setups]. We tried some experimental parts today, which will be part of our on-going aerodynamic upgrades, and it was really satisfying to see them come in and perform as per expectations. It's great validation for us and good confidence for the drivers to say, 'Here are some new parts and this is what they do', and they do it. It says "Perhaps this CFD lark will work!" It was a really good day, tiring, but we're looking forward to continuing on this odyssey we're on.
Q. Has Timo had enough time in the car to give you some feedback?
NW: Very much so. I just wish the poor guy could get some dry laps, but his time will come – he's patient. He's been an absolutely fantastic addition to the team – his experience, his talent and he's a joy to work with. He's given some very positive comments and we know what areas we need to improve, we knew them some time ago, and we're just working along. Rome wasn't built in a day. We're not experienced in building Formula 1 cars, we got our eye in with sports cars but this is a bit different. But it's engineering, it's fun and we're enjoying the challenge.
Q. What's the plan for tomorrow?
NW: As best I know we're swapping to Lucas [di Grassi], hoping for some nice weather and just carrying on.
Q. Are you concerned about running out of dry days before Bahrain comes around?
MW: We are finding and fixing problems, we're not stopping because of the weather. We had another issue today and pretty much every issue we've had has fallen into the category of "happy issues," which are problems that are not fundamental, but are new problems that we did not understand when we got into this project. It's just about fault-fixing, and we're all in the same boat.
It's interesting how parallel the challenge is to sports cars, particularly to the Acura LMP1 car. We went though misery and then stuck the thing on pole and won eight out of 10 races, nine out of 10 poles, lack of sleep!
Q. How are things going as far as getting the Wirth side and the Manor side to gel?
NW: Perfect, no problem, we're all one team with regard to this project. It's very exciting to be testing and working toward our Le Mans package with our partners HPD on that program. We're testing simultaneously in Portugal with a new sports car, so it's quite a challenge but it's an exciting time and the integration is very good.