Wirth parts company with Virgin after board meeting

Virgin has endured a poor start to the 2011 season

Marussia Virgin has parted company with Nick Wirth in the light of the team’s poor start to the season.

Wirth will leave his role as technical director and the team has also terminated its three-year deal with WR Technology, or WRT, the company that provides it with technical and design services.

The news comes in the wake of a board meeting in Monaco where team consultant Pat Symonds – whose involvement with Virgin was first revealed by this blog some months ago – gave a frank assessment of the team’s current position.

WRT increased its CFD computing power in March, thanks to Virgin partner CSC, and Wirth insisted that he be judged on the updates that first came on stream in Turkey. However they failed to produce an upturn in form, and inevitably there was pressure in the camp for change.

The divorce is complicated by the fact that Wirth has a shareholding in the team, and is not just a contractor.

Wirth himself was not in Monaco for the crunch meeting. One source confirmed that he would not have participated anyway in his role as director due a conflict of interest, as he was the meeting’s subject.

Symonds, who is still under an FIA ban from a frontline role in F1 until the end of 2012, made a low-key visit to Monaco. However this blog did catch up with him and he confirmed that he was excited to be back in the sport with a new and ambitious team.

Virgin has not yet revealed what its immediate plans might be. It’s believed that WRT will continue to supply parts, which are mostly made by third parties, for a few weeks.

The team owns all the IP and drawings, and is free to deal direct with suppliers. It can also reclaim the CSC computing power and continue to utilise it, so getting through this season and creating a 2012 car from scratch might not be as daunting a task as it may at first seem.

It’s understood that longer term Marussia may have more ambitious plans to create a proper technical facility.

Meanwhile Wirth’s dream of proving the value of an all-CFD F1 project appears to have come to an end.

Speaking to this blog at the start of the season Wirth said: “We’re here to succeed. Because we’re used to winning in other forms of racing, we’re not comfortable where we are, and we’re very, very motivated to move forward. We’re executing the plan.

“I don’t enjoy not winning, so it’s not been that pleasurable, and there were a lot of aspects of last year that I’d rather didn’t happen. But I love a challenge and this team loves a challenge. We’ve got one in front of us this year, like we had last year. It will be different this year, but we’ll do our best to rise to it.”

Regarding the 2011 car, he said: “The plan was survival, the plan was to build a reliable car for the beginning of this year, the plan was to up our aero development for the first major upgrade. So far we’re executing that. It’s pretty scary to see how fast the top teams have gone. We’ve just got to knuckle down and develop the car and see where we get to.

“We were looking for reliability and performance. Because the project for 2011 was officially greenlit quite late, in September, the number one focus over the winter and the directive from the board and our new partners Marussia was let’s make sure the first part of the season the car is reliable. We also had a plan to improve the performance of the car.”

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Wirth parts company with Virgin after board meeting

  1. Interesting how being banned from Formula One, (by their governing body), still means that you can have close ties to the Formula One sport, in a very direct way.
    With respect, Mr. Pat Symonds, nice work. It really is all about the politics of the dance.
    Good luck to the Team… to reach their self imposed mandate.

    • FYI the FIA is fully aware of what Pat is doing with Virgin and has no problem with it. He is not in a management role. While I can understand views like yours, even murderers get out of jail and are allowed to start a new life. If and when Symonds is in a position to tell his side of the Singapore story the world might have a little more sympathy for him.

      • Jason C

        Oh, you’re a tease.

        That whole business was a nasty affair (not just the deliberate crashing), and I know whose fingerprints I think are all over it, but will we ever know the truth?

        ANYWAY back to the topic. I’m quite shocked by the news because of Wirth’s integral role in the team, but then again the team do seem to be going backwards rather than forwards. Something had to change.

      • Thank you Mr. Cooper.
        Maybe if we heard his side of the story, (and it sounds like you have), we would indeed be more obliging to his position.
        I have no disrespect to Mr. Pat Symonds, and I do wish the Team nothing but the best, as previously posted.
        However, the politics of the dance remains the same.
        If you sit in the same office, you are an integral part of the Team, whether you have a managerial title or not.
        Everyone really thought a ban from Formula One was what it signified.
        There really is no surprise though. We have watched Mr. Flavio Briatore strut around, and quite visible, within the Formula One series.
        Interesting… A ban from the sport is not a ban, unless you decide it is not worth pursuing.
        Oh, the legalities…

  2. cvrt

    “However this blog did catch up with him…”

    Is a blog a quadrupedal or bipedal?

  3. Stone the crows

    Well done Pat. Looks like a windtunnel is in Virgin’s future.

  4. Kitchen cynic

    Did he bump into Flav on the grid? Might have been an intersting conversation…

  5. Sad to see, but it seems Wirth Research lasted as long in F1 as Simtek and ended similarly before the Canadian Grand Prix! Naturally everyone is going to point fingers at the all CFD approach; however I believe the lack of performance simply came more from the lack of budget and the Xtrac gearbox. I was at the Virgin car launch for 2011 and hopes were high of catching the midfield, so changes had to be expected after a disappointing start. There are rumours though a Force India style technical linkup with Mclaren and Mercedes is in the pipeline! Just hope the technical expertise of Pat Symonds can now drive the team forward!

  6. Chris

    If Virgin had access to the same amount of money as the 1MRT do, they would be well up into the midfield. Dont forget they operate with 60million less than 1MRT, yet are only ,what 1-1.5 seconds behind

    • So to extrapolate, 60 million dollars, (any denomination), buys you 1 to 1.5 seconds. And obviously the number gets higher, the further, and faster you want to go…
      I need a lot more money…

  7. hate to see anyone NOT succeed. fresh ideas and newcomers to challenge the old guard is fun (in sport).

    in short, Wirth brought a knife to a gun fight. to NOT utilize a wind tunnel when stalwarts like newey does? the odds were immediately stacked.

    f1 is the pinnacle. as a leading tech director once said ‘….to the Nth degree’. every stone must be turned over in F1. you can succeed in lesser motorsport categories (ask adrian reynard, Toyota, etc.). but c’mon, this is Formula 1.

    where you at Audi? oh i know, toiling around in LeMans vs weak works manufacturers like Peugot and small privateers. step up to the big leagues!

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