Virgin Racing made its F1 debut as one of the four new teams granted entry to the 2010 Formula One Championships. Originally granted entry as Manor Grand Prix on 12 June 2009, the team changed its name to reflect its title sponsor – Richard Branson’s Virgin Group – with the FIA releasing a revised entry list with the team’s new name on 30 November 2009.
Virgin Racing is based in Dinnington, South Yorkshire, England, with John Booth as the team principal and Nick Wirth as the technical director. The team’s drivers are Timo Glock of Germany, and Lucas di Grassi of Brazil, with test drivers being Luiz Razia (Brazil) and Andy Soucek (Spain). The team boasts cars designed entirely using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Its chassis is the VR-01 with Cosworth CA2010 engine and sporting Bridgestone tires. While the team is based in Dinnington, the development and production of the cars is handled by Wirth Research, based in Bicester. Virgin owns eighty percent of the team, with other sponsors being Lloyds Banking Group, Bridgestone, UST Global, Carbon Green, and CSC.
Both drivers were forced to retire from their debut race at the 2010 Bahrain F1 Grand Prix. Nonetheless, the entire team has displayed a positive attitude noting that while they have some teething problems to overcome, the season is still young and there is plenty of opportunity to show that Virgin Racing has what it takes to compete in this demanding, and exciting, sport.
Born in São Paulo, Brazil, on 11 August 1984, Lucas Tucci Di Grassi started his racing career in karting, before moving on to formula racing in 2002, where he completed the Brazilian Formula Renault season in second place, as runner-up to Sérgio Jiminez. In 2003, Di Grassi transitioned to Formula Three, finishing the Formula Three Sudamericana as runner up to Danilo Dirani. He was driving a Dallara F301 Mugen-Honda for Avallone Motorsport at the time.
In 2004 Di Grassi moved to Europe, competing in the British F3 Championship as a driver for Hitech Racing. He earned a podium finish at the Macau Grand Prix – his debut event with Hitech – and finished the season in eighth place. Driving for Manor Motorsport in 2005, Di Grassi finished third in the F3 Euroseries championship.
Moving up to GP2 with Team Durango in 2006, Di Grassi finished the season with eight points at seventeenth in the standings. Driving for ART Grand Prix in 2007, Di Grassi scored points at every race (with the exception of one), pitting him against Timo Glock for the championship. The competition between the two drivers was close virtually up to the end of the season, with Glock winning the title. Di Grassi went on to drive for Campos Racing from round four of the 2008 F2 season, where he replaced Ben Hanley. A collision with Giorgio Pantana at Spa that year resulted in Di Grassi finishing third in the season.
Having served as the third driver for Renault F1 Team in 2009, and achieving third overall in the GP2 series that year, Lucas Di Grassi signed to race for the newly created Virgin Racing team in the 2010 F1 Grand Prix Championships, with his one-time rival Timo Glock as his team-mate.