F1 battlers continue to focus on 2012 car

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MARUSSIA Virgin Racing are bidding to end the European leg of their Formula One journey on a high note in four days time.

But Graeme Lowdon, the sporting director and president of the Dinnington-based outfit, has stressed that creating a competitive car for the 2012 campaign remains their top priority.

A major car upgrade to the rear end of its MRV-02 car will be unveiled in Monza this weekend. The package, which had originally been pencilled in for the British Grand Prix but were dropped in the wake of Virgin’s operational reshuffle, includes new engine covers, sidepods, exhaust and rear floor.

Team principal John Booth and Lowdon hope the upgrade will make Virgin half a second quicker on track at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza circuit.

While Virgin have had the edge over rivals Team Lotus and HRT Hispania in the reliability stakes throughout the season, Booth’s men have struggled to generate the downforce to challenge the established order and move away from the back of the grid. As it stands, they are bottom of the constructors’ championship and it would take changeable weather conditions in the final seven races to boost their hopes of pulling off a shock result.

Another indicator of the ground Virgin have got to make up before becoming a genuine force in F1 is that they are still lapping four to five seconds slower than the heavyweights of the competition; the Red Bulls, McLarens and Ferraris.

Nonetheless, Lowdon is upbeat about Virgin’s future prospects.

He told The Star: “We are just trying to move things forward.

“Hopefully the upgrade will be another step in the right direction but we don’t want to pin too many hopes on it.

“There will be other teams taking upgrades to Monza so we will see what happens. Our main focus is on the 2012 car.

“The things that we learn from this upgrade will only make us stronger and help us in the long run.”