Marussia Racing consultant Pat Symonds believes that the team's 2011 car had very good potential in some areas but was badly hamstrung by poor aerodynamics.
After relying solely on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for its first two designs, the ex-Virgin team is embracing wind tunnel technology as part of its design restructuring, which has also seen the exit of former partner Wirth Research and the announcement of a new collaboration with McLaren.
Former Renault technical chief Symonds said it was only poor aero that was holding the 2011 Virgin back.
"I think it's true to say we do a lot of competitor analysis, a lot of analysis of where we are, and I think mechanically the car was much better than a back-of-the-grid car," he told AUTOSPORT. "The performance in the slow corners was much closer to the norm than it was in the fast corners. The car responded to changes pretty well, it used its tires pretty well, it wasn't a difficult car to drive, so I think our low-speed performance was reasonable. The high-speed performance wasn't good – and then of course you look at aerodynamics.
"Let's face it, most of the performance from an F1 car now comes from aerodynamics. That's where we were lacking and that's where it put us back."
Symonds added that Marussia also had a fine asset in lead driver Timo Glock, who has stayed on for a third season.
"He's good. He's very communicative, and he pushes hard," Symonds said of Glock. "He's a good yardstick for the team. I am very, very pleased we have got him.
"I think when you are trying to develop a car and develop a team, if you don't have a yardstick, some continuity, it can get pretty difficult. Timo is a very important part of our progress forward."