CFD Now Wirthless

This season’s Technical Director cull has continued with another scalp- Virgin and Wirth Research have parted ways, at the same time announcing that their design approach from now on won’t be all CFD. Nick Wirth joins Sam Michael (Williams) and Aldo Costa (Ferrari) in the F1 Job Centre.

This is significant- when Virgin entered Formula One they said they were going to revolutionise Formula One design with an approach that negated “wasteful windtunnels” and was cost effective and this news is effectively an admission of failure. This was evident on track- their highest grid placing this season has been on the tenth row of the grid with only the Hispania’s for company.

So- what next for Virgin? Interestingly, reports suggest that disgraced former Renault Technical Director Pat Symonds, (currently suspended from all active Formula One roles for his part in the disgraceful scam in the 2008 Singapore GP) is heading up plans for the 2012 car in his role of consultant. Some media outlets are suggesting that Aldo Costa (ex Ferrari, Minardi) would be a suitable candidate- his time at Minardi proved that he can produce decent cars on a tight budget. I would also like to tip Sam Michael’s hat into the ring- Williams would not have had an astronomical budget, and the cars he produces would certainly get Virgin into Q2 as they are currently angling for.

The same announcement about Wirth’s departure also contains another interesting anecdote- Virgin are looking for a technical base, which also surely signals an end to the ridiculous triangle currently going on where Virgin handle the commercial side, Wirth handled the Technical side, and Manor Motorsport prepared and ran the cars. One of the technical bases they have evaluated (and probably the prime candidate for the new base) is the former Arrows and Super Aguri base at Leafield.

I wonder where they will find a windtunnel to borrow. One can assume that if they get a technical partnership with McLaren as rumoured (same as Force India currently enjoy), that they would be able to access the McLaren windtunnel facility, but failing that I wonder if they’ll share the spare windtunnnel at Mercedes with Hispania.

One thing is for sure- today signals a defeat (for now) for the all CFD design approach. While Nick Wirth appeared to be a decent man to chat to in the paddock, his previous F1 design history is slightly chequered- In 1994 and 1995 he ran the backmarker Simtek team (until their mid season bankruptcy) and from 1996 to 1999 designed the post-Brawn & Byrne Benetton cars which hardly covered themselves in glory.

I will post later on my thoughts of Pat Symonds reappearing- though if you look through your computer screens you can probably see steam coming out of my ears, so you can see where this is going…..


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