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Embarrassed Virgin admits fuel tank is too small

ESPNF1 Staff
March 26, 2010 « Kubica sets the early pace | »
Lucas di Grassi ponders more problems on a bad day for Virgin © Sutton Images

There were red faces in the Virgin team when it was forced to admit that it needs to make major modifications to its car after discovering the fuel tank is not big enough to enable them to complete a grand prix.

Although technical boss Nick Wirth admitted the tank capacity was "marginal", an F1 insider was quoted by the BBC as saying the changes were a "significant modification" and the tank was around 13 litres too small. It is also unclear if Virgin will build new carbon-fibre chassis or slice and dice the existing ones.

Whatever is the truth over the seriousness of the problem, Virgin admitted asking the FIA for permission to submit a new chassis for inspection and that will mean it will have to undergo mandatory crash tests. The new car will not be ready until the fifth race of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix on May 9.

"It has become clear during pre-season testing and our debut race in Bahrain that our fuel-tank capacity is marginal and if not addressed there is the possibility that fuel pick-up could become an issue in certain circumstances," Wirth said. "At the time that the design of the tank was locked down in June 2009, its capacity was determined by a number of factors, some of which have since changed and the tank capacity now needs to be increased accordingly."

Until the changes are implemented, the two Virgin cars will have to be nursed round the latter stages of races if they are to avoid running out of fuel. However, ongoing reliability concerns mean the team would probably be happy if it ever got to that stage.

And a further set-back is that aerodynamical modifications have had to be put on hold, as any developments will be rendered obsolete when the new larger chassis comes into use.