Marussia Virgin Racing has parted company with technical director Nick Wirth following its disappointing start to the season.
The team had targeted reaching Q2 on a regular basis this year, but has failed to start any higher than the 10th row during the first six races of the season. As a result, Wirth Research is no longer a part of the operation.
Former Renault director of engineering Pat Symonds has overseen the review of Virgin, and is understood to be heading up plans for its 2012 car in his capacity as a consultant.
"The decision has been made that the team will take greater control of its own destiny," said Marussia Virgin CEO Andy Webb told AUTOSPORT. "Accordingly, having consulted with our existing technical partner during the course of the past few weeks, we have been obliged to terminate our relationship with them."
"I believe that the steps we are taking in terms of our technical leadership and operational excellence will provide us with the robust foundation required to go on and achieve our performance objectives in the years ahead. These are bold but positive steps that will enable us to move forward with confidence."
Despite the change in technical direction, the team already has a series of upgrades and developments that have been signed off by Wirth Research that it plans to introduce in the coming months. It is hoped that these will allow it to close the gap to Team Lotus. But there is also a desire to trial run new development directions with the current Virgin MVR-02 in the latter stages of the season. This could lead to major revisions later in the campaign.
"At this time of year, it is commonplace for all teams to start looking ahead to the following racing year, while continuing to develop the existing car for the remaining races of the current season," said Webb. "The upgrades we have planned for the summer races are now passing from the design phase to the production stage and more and more of our focus is turning to 2012.
"In light of our long-term plans, we will continue to aggressively pursue this strategy, but as next year's regulations contain few changes we hope that some of the development work aimed at the MVR-03 may also find its way onto the current car."
The team reportedly is well-advanced with plans to establish its own technical base, with the ex-Arrows and Super Aguri facility at Leafield, England, among the facilities it has evaluated.
There have also been reports that Virgin is seeking a technical partner, with McLaren among the options. This would likely lead to a partnership along similar lines to the one that helped propel Force India from the back of the grid into regular points scorers over the past two-and-a-half years.
The team would not comment in detail on its new technical structure, but confirmed that these changes have been in the pipeline since Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia Motors bought into the team last year.
"In November 2010, sports car manufacturer Marussia Motors acquired a significant shareholding in the Marussia Virgin Racing F1 Team, securing the Team's future and underlining the marque's long-term commitment to Formula 1," said Webb. "Over the past six months, Marussia and the board of directors have undertaken a comprehensive review in order to ensure that Marussia Virgin Racing has the strongest platform, team of people and resources in place to achieve its long-term ambitions.
"Integral to this review has been an evaluation of the technical direction of Marussia Virgin Racing. Marussia's goal remains to be in a position to be able to challenge for a podium finish at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in Sochi 2014. With this in mind, it is readily apparent that the team must take major steps in order to accelerate its rate of improvement. Looking ahead, we will now be pursuing an alternative technical path and look forward to announcing our plans in more detail over the coming weeks."
Virgin is also set to drop its all-CFD development strategy, which was key to it being able to afford to move into F1 in the first place. Now an established team in its second season, it is expected to start a wind tunnel testing program alongside ongoing CFD work.
"At this stage, I would like to underline our continued commitment to a cost-efficient commercial model," said Webb. "We maintain our absolute belief in CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) as a technology, especially since it continues to become more cost-effective with every year. Naturally, we will continue to use every means at our disposal to improve the aerodynamics of our car with immediate effect."