Virgin Racing fire technical director Nick Wirth

Virgin Racing

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Virgin Racing unveil 2011 challenger

Virgin Racing have axed technical director Nick Wirth following a disappointing start to their second season in Formula 1.

In a bid to cut costs, Wirth pioneered the use of computer technology, known as CFD, to design and develop their car.

But the team have yet to score a point and the car remains four seconds off the pace.

Virgin are now seeking a new direction to catch up with the midfield pack.

Russian sportscar maker Marussia Motors, which bought a controlling interest in the team late last year, and the board recently met and decided to cut ties with Wirth and his design company Wirth Research.

"The goal remains to be in a position to be able to challenge for a podium finish at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in 2014," said Andy Webb, CEO of Virgin Racing.

"With this in mind, it is readily apparent that the team must take major steps in order to accelerate its rate of improvement.

"Consequently, the decision has been taken that the team will take greater control of its own destiny.

"Accordingly, having consulted with our existing technical partner during the course of the past few weeks, we have been obliged to terminate our relationship with them."

Most teams use CFD (computational fluid dynamics) alongside wind tunnels, a tool for shaping a car's aerodynamics that has been de rigueur in F1 for 30 years, but Wirth believed it was possible to rely on computer technology alone.

However, last year the team were forced to make embarassing modifications to their car after discovering the fuel tank was not big enough to complete a race distance.

This season, Virgin Racing have been beset by more reliability problems and have shown few signs of closing the gap to the midfield teams.

Neither Timo Glock nor Jerome D'Ambrosio have qualified any higher than 20th this season with D'Ambrosio recorded a best finish of 14th in Australia's season opener.

"What has been disappointing has been our pace," commented team principal John Booth. "It's aero efficiency. We're nowhere with it."

Booth said that there was a possibility the team would consider a wind tunnel programme as long as it was within the limits of the team's budget.

Virgin are already being advised by former Renault engineering chief Pat Symonds, who was suspended from F1 for his part in the 2008 race-fixing controversy.

"Looking ahead, we will now be pursuing an alternative technical path and look forward to announcing our plans in more detail over the coming weeks," Webb added.

"At this stage I would like to underline our continued commitment to a cost-efficient commercial model.

"We maintain our absolute belief in CFD as a technology, especially since it continues to become more cost-effective with every year.

"I believe that the steps we are taking in terms of our technical leadership and operational excellence will provide us with the robust foundation required to go on and achieve our performance objectives in the years ahead."