Virgin Racing is to ramp up its computer simulation capabilities next year in a move that will set a new benchmark in Formula 1, the team has revealed.
Following announcement of a new partnership with Russian sports car maker Marussia, Virgin's technical chief Nick Wirth has revealed plans for a major expansion of its CFD (computational fluid dynamics) facility, making it the biggest in Formula 1 and third in the world in terms of processing power.
"We are putting a gigantic installation in," said Wirth. "Our CFD partners say the new installation will be the third largest in the world. It is unbelievably exciting for us."
The new facility in Banbury, England – which will cover 70,000sq.ft. and provide the team 3.3 terabytes of information per day, is due to be finished in January. Although that means it will not have any impact on the design of the 2011 contender, Wirth is hopeful that its data will help with the first update package for the new car.
"At the moment, we are still using resources similar to the ones we have got this year, albeit much more efficiently, but hopefully the new installation will be good for the first update kit when we come to Europe," he said.
Although there remain cynics in the pit lane about Virgin's use of CFD, rather than wind tunnel work, Wirth is convinced it is the right way to go.
"The bottom line is that we are just learning about this," he said. "We have put updates on the car, which have made it faster – end of story. We haven't put enough on because, guess what, we haven't had the money – and also we spent so much time on reliability. That is why this Marussia financial stabilization is so important. It has been a real battle this year, financially, and from my side, we know we are going to get paid so we can get on with the job. It is so exciting."
Virgin's new car is scheduled to run for the first time at the second of the preseason tests in February, with the outfit undecided yet on whether or not it will run its 2010 contender in the first test.
"In the one sense you want to be gathering tire data but, on the other hand, we could be there under umbrellas and raincoat," said Wirth. "I think we will probably be focused on building the new car."
The team will continue to build its own gearbox casing next year, with Xtrac internals, despite talks with other teams about providing customer transmissions. Wirth has also confirmed that the squad will not be running KERS.
"We are not going to have KERS and I know lots of people are panicking about KERS and the fact that they think their car will be overweight to start with," he said. "I think KERS, in terms of net lap time, the most people talk about is two to three tenths per lap. We are looking for two to three seconds."