I wonder what Timo Glock is thinking just now. Following an impressive early career, and after showing flashes of talent at Toyota for two years, Glock faced a difficult decision prior to the 2010 season.
Renault or Virgin? Once upon a time it was a tough choice
His first option was to take a risk and sign for Renault, whose future was on the line. At the time it was said that Glock was considering driving for Renault, Robert Kubica was seeking assurances about the team’s future. Renault were beginning to phase out their involvement in running an F1 team.
His other option was to sign for a new team, Virgin, but one that was not likely to have the plug pulled on its future so soon. Glock chose this option.
No doubt, with the information he had at his disposal at the time, Timo Glock had a difficult decision to make. But today, he must feel sick about his choice.
He is making increasingly frustrated noises about Virgin’s lack of progress. He first complained that Virgin had lost ground to the teams it was targeting, such as Toro Rosso. Then he began to question whether Virgin was even capable of qualifying for races following the reinstatement of the 107% rule.
Judging by Virgin’s performance in Australia, these fears were well founded. And what’s more, they risk slipping back even further.
Threatened even by Hispania
For Malaysia, Hispania will be looking to race with their 2011-spec front wing. Their new front wing failed a crash test, apparently by a minuscule margin. So they used a 2010 front wing in Australia. But if they can fit the new wing for Malaysia, the hot word is that Hispania could be faster than Virgin.
That would be seriously embarrassing for Virgin. The team has staked its reputation on Nick Wirth’s idea that a competitive car can be designed without the use of a wind tunnel. They just about got away with it last year. But this year, with Virgin’s lack of progress, a serious question mark is beginning to hang over the CFD-only method.
Over the winter, the Hispania team has become something of a laughing stock. Struggling for cash, the team has done the bare minimum of running. It did no testing. Before attempting to qualify in Australia, they had only completed the merest figleaf of an installation lap.
They then failed to qualify for the race. It was worryingly reminiscent of what Arrows did in 2002 in its final few races before it had to close down, when the drivers deliberately failed to qualify in order to avoid the costs of racing while still meeting their contractual requirements.
However, a recent article by James Allen suggests that the future for Hispania may be more promising than Australia’s performance indicated.
While Virgin struggle, Renault are flying
That article also says that Glock “looked a haunted man” following the Australian Grand Prix. It’s easy to imagine why, when you consider again the choice he faced before 2010.
The team he apparently walked away from, Renault, is on the up and up. While Renault themselves may have more or less pulled out entirely, the team now has solid backing from Genii Capital, a group that appears to mean business in F1. The team also has major, prominent backing from Proton, who are using the team to promote their Group Lotus activities.
The Renault car itself is in great shape too. Its innovative exhaust system is one of the most talked-about car developments of the winter. And Vitaly Petrov’s solid run to third place in Australia sent a strong signal that, while Renault may not exactly be title contenders, they are certainly out to give the front runners a real run for their money.
So, the situation could hardly have gone worse for Timo Glock. He had a difficult decision to make, but as things stand it has turned out to be unambiguously the wrong one. It could cost his career dearly. To be pottering around in a car that may not even be fast enough to qualify does not befit a driver of Timo Glock’s stature.
With Virgin worrying about 107% while Petrov stands on the podium, it is easy to see why Glock would look haunted.