Virgin Racing did evaluate whether to incorporate a Renault-style, forward-facing exhaust system on its 2011 challenger, but in the end opted to stick with its own, more traditional, blown diffuser solution.
Renault has delivered one of the major technical innovations of 2011 with its exhaust exits coming out at the leading edge of the sidepods on its R31 – to optimize gas flow underneath the car. Wirth is well aware of the importance of getting an effective blown diffuser, and recently tried out tests of the forward exhausts to see if it was a concept his team needed to feature on its new MVR-02.
"We had heard about it toward the end of last year, we heard rumors about it, and it is very cost-effective and easy for us to check other solutions out," Wirth said at the launch of his team's 2011 challenger. "I can confirm that we have tried a solution very similar to what you see on the other car – and it gives results that are very different from ours.
"We actually went so far as getting our drivers to test it on a simulator to see whether it would be an advantage. We could see why they [Renault] have done it, but it takes a team of the financial, human and technical resources of Renault to make that happen. I think if you are fighting where they are, you might be interested in doing it but we are happy with the solution we have got."
Wirth reckons there are clear benefits to the forward exhaust idea, but did not believe Virgin Racing would gain enough, considering the huge resource needed to get it fitted on its car.
"We didn't think of it, don't get me wrong, but having seen it now – and having tested what it could do, I don't think we will be rushing to that solution any time soon," he said. "It is a massive, massive undertaking what they have done – getting high temperature exhaust gases past a fuel system, past wiring, past hydraulics, past a cooling system. And, most important, getting it past the side-impact structures, which are not normally tested at anything other than room temperature, so they have to satisfy the FIA that it is legal even when it is hot. That is just a massive job and hats off to them for having the bravery to do something like that."
When asked if he believed it would be difficult for other front-running teams to adopt Renault's idea, Wirth said: "I think it will be very easy for teams with massive, unlimited financial resources to do it – it won't be a problem."