Virgin went all the way today as Lucas di Grassi brought his VR-01 home in 14th position, helping his Virgin Racing team to achieve an important first race finish. Lucas drove a very mature race to see his own maiden chequered flag. He beat the other new teams into submission at the
same time as having to contend with a missing front wing end-plate after an unsuccessful 11th lap challenge from the Lotus Racing car of Heikki Kovalainen.
Timo was less fortunate on a day where both cars were looking good to make it to the finish. He was going great guns at the start, but was losing time behind Jarno Trulli
. In a bid to dispense with the Lotus he was about to execute a crucial overtaking move when he locked his rear wheels into the corner, the back end of his VR-01 stepped out and he inadvertently struck Jarno's car, which resulted in Timo's race coming to an end after only 2 laps.
Nevertheless, everyone at Virgin Racing is delighted that their season is now properly underway and both drivers will be heading straight back to Bicester for some all-important race preparation on the Wirth Research Simulators in readiness for their next challenge - the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks' time.
Lucas di Grassi:
"It was a very tough race today - physically and mentally - but I'm so happy to bring the Virgin Racing car home to the finish. I had a great start and was able to make up five places on the opening lap. We had very good early pace and continued to be strong, despite losing my front wing end-plate when Heikki tried to overtake me. We had a good pit stop and we were still looking very strong in the second part of the race. We were well ahead of the other new teams, which meant that we could afford to ease off a little to make sure nothing got in the way of our result today. It has been a long wait and we've had some tough times in the past few months, but we know that we're making progress and we can go on to achieve better things. Today showed that we are truly competitive and it's a great feeling that our fight has really started now. Timo's DNF was a real shame but I think we can start to look forward together to some great racing now."
"I had a pretty good start and the first laps were quite fun with a lot of fights going on. I dropped behind Jarno and in general I was quite a lot quicker than him. I tried to overtake but locked the rears and for some reason the anti-stall didn't kick in. Unfortunately I hit Jarno and it was my mistake. But it's great that Lucas finished the race, and ahead of Lotus, which is good for the team. I hope that in the next race we can get both cars to the finish."
Nick Wirth, Technical Director:
"Finally getting one of our cars to see the chequered flag is a great reward for everyone at Virgin Racing and Wirth Research and I want to thank all of our partners, sponsors and supporters for their patience and understanding during the last few months. The race was quite stressful on the pit wall as we left the grid assuming that it was going to rain. It took a little while for us to be really sure that it wasn't and then, being mindful of our fuel tank limitations, it was really just a case of the team and Lucas deploying our well-practised fuel-saving techniques to excellent effect. Timo was very fired up for the race and it was unfortunate that he didn't manage to get a finish but his time will come very soon. This weekend has been, from start to finish, a clear step forward and comes as a result of diligent hard work from a great many people and I dedicate this result to them. We've come in for heavy criticism for our radical low-cost design approach and relative inexperience in F1, which makes our performance throughout the weekend all the more satisfying. Finishing our first Grand Prix as the leading new team will give us lots of information and we've got some clear direction on issues to address for Shanghai, which will allow us to perform better all round, without distracting us too much from the bigger Barcelona upgrade. So once again, well done to everyone at Virgin Racing and we now looking forward to building on this platform."