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Exclusive Timo Glock Q&A: Virgin aiming to be best newcomer 04 Jan 2010

Timo Glock (GER), Virgin Racing. Virgin Racing Launch Studio Shoot, London, England, 15th December 2009. (L to R) Timo Glock, Richard Branson, Lucas di Grassi. Virgin Racing announce that they will enter F1 in 2010 re-branding the Manor F1 Team. Louise Blouin Foundation, London, UK. 15 December 2009. Virgin Racing drivers (l-r) Timo Glock (GER) and Lucas di Grassi (BRA). Virgin Racing Launch Studio Shoot, London, England, 15th December 2009. L-R: Alvaro Parente (POR) test driver; Timo Glock (GER); Alex Tai (MAL) Team Principal; Lucas di Grassi (BRA); and Luiz Razia (BRA) test driver; at the launch of the new Virgin Racing team. Virgin Racing Launch Studio Shoot, London, England, 15th December 2009. Alex Tai (MAL) Team Principal Virgin Racing; Richard Branson (GBR) Virgin Group CEO; Nick Wirth (GBR) Virgin Racing Technical Director; Graeme Lowdon (GBR) Virgin Racing Director of Racing; John Booth (GBR), Virgin Racing Sporting Director. Virgin Racing announce that they will enter F1 in 2010 re-branding the Manor F1 Team. Louise Blouin Foundation, London, UK. 15 December 2009.

For 2010 Timo Glock moves from the vast corporate structure of Toyota to the far more intimate surroundings of the new Virgin Racing team. With a rookie for a team mate in Lucas di Grassi, it will also be Glock’s first time as number one driver. The German is confident he can cope with the pressure - if he doesn’t he could face the prospect of Virgin boss Richard Branson dressed as an air stewardess. Motivation indeed…

Q: To an outsider your move from Toyota’s corporate culture to Virgin’s more relaxed approach seems like a real change. Do you agree?
Timo Glock:
This question has two sides. If you take the factory then it was far from that. Sure if you drive for Toyota and visit that impressive factory near Cologne, and you then move to a small British team with obviously smaller facilities, it is like being on a different planet. But I would also say that it felt like a healthy step back to grassroots. It felt very positive. If, on the other hand, you take the corporate culture, then yes it’s quite different. I feel I have much more freedom and everything is less complicated. In this respect things have turned out for the better. So far everything is running extremely smoothly. The team launch was very laidback - more so than with any other team I’ve ever been with - and I feel very, very comfortable.

Q: The Virgin Racing launch was certainly very cool. It looked more like the launch of a rock band…
TG:
It’s funny that you say that. That was what I thought myself. You could say that what you saw on that day was Virgin’s philosophy and I predict that this will have a very refreshing impact on the paddock. I think that the Virgin brand is kind of rock ’n’ roll, and my guess is that Richard Branson wants to cultivate that. We’ll surely see some surprises in that mould over the course of the season.

Q: After Toyota announced they were to withdraw, was your Formula One future ever in doubt?
TG:
No, not for one second. I had realized early on that there would be no future for me at Toyota, so I started to look for alternatives early on and I have to say that our instinct didn’t let us down. We started to negotiate with Virgin shortly after the Japanese Grand Prix. In my head I was probably ready to race for another team by Suzuka. And when shortly after the race there was an invitation to visit the factory, it became very obvious to me that they were very serious about their F1 plans. My gut feeling told me that this could be the place for me in 2010.

Q: When you say that by the weekend of the Japanese race you already knew that your future wasn’t with Toyota, do you mean just in relation to yourself or did you already believe that Toyota would withdraw from the sport?
TG:
No, at that time I hadn’t any clue that Toyota would withdraw. It was only that I knew my time there was coming to an end.

Q: Virgin team boss Richard Branson has proudly declared that the team will run with one of the smallest budgets on the Formula One grid. Does that plan suit an ambitious diver?
TG:
It suits me very well because I think that they will be able to put their plans into action. On the technical side, their plans are substantially different from all the other F1 teams. Their whole programme has been run via CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) which is an immense factor in terms of limiting cost. And at the end of the day I don’t think it takes 600 employees to run a successful Formula One team. I think success can be achieved with a far smaller headcount and much smaller budgets than the teams are used to at the moment. I saw during Toyota’s final stages that it is possible to run on a smaller budget and to increase a budget from 40 to 70 million pounds is much easier than to trim back from 300 to 150 million or even to 100 million.

Q: Your new team mate Lucas di Grassi is a Formula One rookie. Are you ready to lead a team?
TG:
Yes I am and I am really looking forward to it. In fact that was one of my reasons for choosing Virgin Racing because I was promised the number one position and the team will be structured around me. This will be a completely new experience for me and will add further experience to my CV. In this respect I have to say that I’ve learned a lot at Toyota over the years and feel ready for the challenge.

Q: Toyota was undoubtedly a powerful and rich player amongst the teams. When you visited the Virgin Racing factory for the first time what was your first thought?
TG:
My first thought was very pragmatic. I thought that it would be much easier for me to remember all the names of my team mates as there were a lot less people working there and that due to the smaller size of the facility everything is much more compact. We have all seen that success has nothing to do with the size of the factory but depends instead on the quality of the people and how the team is structured.

Q: There’s a very high profile bet running between fellow newcomers Lotus and Virgin, with Branson agreeing to spend a day as an Air Asia stewardess (Lotus boss Tony Fernandes is also CEO of Air Asia) if Virgin ends the season behind Lotus. How are you coping with the pressure to succeed?
TG:
To be honest it would be pretty cool to see Richard in the uniform of a stewardess, but we will do everything to prevent that from happening. But if I should prevent him from wearing a short red outfit, then I would appreciate it very much if he would serve me on one of the flights we’re both on, when it is clear that we’ve achieved our minimal goal of ending the season as the best of the new teams.