Russians flying the flag for Virgin to target podium spot

YORKSHIRE’S Formula 1 team may have a long road ahead to achieve a podium finish in the richest sport in the world but if that day does arrive it will be the Russian, not British flag, that is raised to salute their accomplishment.

For at the launch of their car for the 2011 grand prix season at a slick ceremony in London yesterday that belied all the problems they encountered in their debut season, the impact of the significant investment into Virgin Racing by Marussia Motors was obvious.

Although the Russian supercar manufacturer’s stake is disclosed only as ‘significant’ their emotional attachment appears far greater.

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Naming rights and seats on the board for members of the Russian team have been welcomed by everyone at the Dinnington team who underwent the unrelenting strain of a debut season, and although the money being pumped in still does not gain them parity with the rest of the grid, the benefactors want quick results.

That represents a regular birth in second qualifying sessions by mid-season, which everyone at Marussia Virgin Racing hope will open the door to maiden points finishes.

By the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in 2014, podium finishes are the target, which if achieved, the team born out of John Booth’s 20-year-old Manor Motorsport operation will be greeted by a rendition of the Russian national anthem.

The man conducting the orchestra yesterday was Andy Webb, Marussia’s British promoter who has assumed the role of chief executive with the team.

He said: “I want to always finish, and if regularly in Q2 that would be success this year. Then you can build on that in the following years and then we’re dreaming of a podium finish and singing the Russian national anthem in Sochi in 2014.”

For his part Booth, as team principal, matches those podium ambitions. He did not work tirelessly for 20 years in the support classes to then rest on his laurels.

He said: “I’ll take it as it comes, racing is about pressure, Formula 1 is about pressure. Bring it on.

“What the Marussia partnership does is it allows us to show what we can do.

“It gives us a chance to prove what we can do, prove our methodology, and prove what we believe in.”

That belief is that the radical computational fluid dynamics (CFD) of Nick Wirth remains the team’s defining answer to Formula 1’s imbalance of wealth.

Booth, who allayed fears of a relocation to Moscow by confirming work had begun on a new research and development facility at Dinnington, continued: “I grabbed the chance to be in Formula 1 with both hands, and I do and I will work endlessly to make it a success.”

Virgin launch: Page 19.