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.”