Marussia Virgin Racing has asked former Renault technical director Pat Symonds to undertake a full review of its operation in a bid to help turn around its disappointing start to the 2011 campaign
With the team's MVR-02 having not delivered the step forward in pace that had been hoped for, the outfit is now looking for answers as to why progress has fallen short of expectations. Although there are high hopes that a major aerodynamic upgrade planned for the Turkish Grand Prix will help lift its form, Virgin has called on Symonds to look deeper into the reasons why the start of the campaign has been a struggle.
Symonds, who cannot return to a full-time Formula 1 role until 2013, has been acting as a consultant for the team for several weeks now. However, the scope of his role has been ramped up on the back of the performance of the team in the first races of the season.
"I think it is fair to say that Pat, who has only been working for us for two months, is undertaking an overview of the team," Virgin team principal John Booth told AUTOSPORT. "He works with the engineers daily, but his main job at the moment is to take an overview of where we are. I am sure within a month or two he will give us some conclusions and pointers."
Booth added that as well as pointing the team in areas that it needed to improve, Symonds was helpful in letting it know where it was doing things right. too.
"There are two areas – one that he does give us great optimism for the future. He has been there before, done it several times and knows it inside out. The other thing is that when you have a conversation or a meeting, then Pat works with the engineers and he gives a rubber stamp to the way the engineers have been setting the meetings up, the way they have been working, the way they deal with the drivers.
"It gives you a great deal of confidence that you know they have been doing it right for the last eight months or so, as that is always a question in your mind. When someone like Pat gives you a rubber stamp, it gives you a real boost of confidence."
The team openly admits that its new MVR-02 has not produced the downforce levels that had been hoped for, with pressure now on technical director Nick Wirth to improve the situation.
"We have stagnated – we haven't moved on, and that is the most disappointing thing," Booth said. "But hopefully we have recognized some of the problems, and the upgrade in Turkey will put a lot of that right. But that will only put us where we should have started in Australia."
The Turkey upgrade will include new exhausts, a new floor, a new front wing, improved brakes and tweaked diffusers. Virgin chiefs are also ready to consider putting their car through some wind tunnel tests, even though the team has famously championed itself as only using CFD.
Last year, the team evaluated its inaugural challenger in a German wind tunnel at Stuttgart University, and sources suggest the current car could be evaluated at the Mercedes GP facility in Brackley, England, in order to give it comparison figures to ensure its CFD direction is working.
When asked about the possibility of some wind tunnel testing, team president Graeme Lowdon said: "From my point of view, I don't care if it is wind tunnel, dowsing with coat-hangers or whatever the technology is, as long as it fits a commercial profile and works."
Booth added: "I don't think wind tunnel testing is quite the inefficient, cash-guzzling beast it was four years ago. I think with the wind-on restrictions, the people within F1 operating wind tunnels are 20 times more efficient than they were four or five years ago."