Feb 23

Virgin Racing signs Andy Soucek (updated)

Exclusive Q&A with Andy Soucek‏
Soucek expects to drive Virgin car ‘very soon’
2009 F2 Champion becomes Reserve and Test Driver – Soucek to test Virgin this week

USF1The Virgin Racing Formula One team is pleased to announce that it has signed Andy Soucek to the role of Reserve and Test Driver, finalising the team’s driver line-up for the 2010 season.

Andy Soucek Biography

The 24 year old Spaniard, winner of the 2009 FIA Formula 2 Championship, will attend Grands Prix with Virgin Racing during its inaugural season, benefiting from being part of the team’s race weekend preparations whilst standing by to deputise for one of the race drivers if required.

Andy will also provide valuable car development support back at the team’s technical base in Bicester, assisting in the ongoing simulator programme with race drivers Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi between Grands Prix.

Andy will continue to hone his racecraft in a variety of other motor racing series.

John Booth, Team Principal of Virgin Racing, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Andy Soucek to Virgin Racing. He had a very good season in Formula 2 last year and a positive F1 test with Williams. He is certainly someone we have been keeping a close eye on as we believe he has a great deal of potential.

“We expect him to be a real asset to our development programme with the VR-01 and at the same time he provides the experience we need should he be required to deputise for one of the race drivers at short notice. We are pleased to have finalised our driver line-up and we look forward to having Andy alongside us in Barcelona later this week so he can spend some valuable familiarisation time with the team.”

Andy Soucek commented: “I am thrilled to be joining Virgin Racing. This role offers me a great opportunity to prepare myself for the Formula One environment, which is naturally where my longer-term ambitions lie. I look forward to learning from Timo and Lucas as well as soaking up as much information as possible from engineering meetings and time on the simulator.

“I would like to thank John Booth and Nick Wirth in particular for the faith they have shown in me at this stage in my career. It is exciting and very motivating to be part of a new structure in such a challenging sport and I hope that my experience can contribute a great deal to the development of the car and team in order to help us progress as quickly as possible.”

Soucek expects to drive Virgin car ‘very soon’

Andy Soucek on Tuesday said he expects to drive Virgin’s new formula one car “very soon”.

The reigning F2 champion and Spaniard was earlier confirmed as the new British team’s reserve driver for 2010.

Spanish media sources said the 24-year-old will test the car at the final pre-season group test of the winter in Barcelona later this week.

However, while confirming that Soucek will be at the Circuit de Catalunya, Virgin said only that he will be in Spain for “some valuable familiarisation time with the team”.

Asked on Tuesday when he expects to drive the Cosworth powered VR-01, he answered: “I am not 100 per cent sure yet but it will be very soon.

“I will be with the team in Barcelona later this week and I cannot wait to get my first experience in the car.

“Having previously tested with Toyota and more recently with Williams it will be fantastic to drive another formula one car,” Soucek added.

Soucek to test Virgin this week

Andy Soucek, to shortly be confirmed as Virgin’s new 2010 reserve driver, is expected to test the VR-01 this week at Barcelona.

Reports said the Spaniard and reigning F2 champion will replace Alvaro Parente as Virgin’s reserve, after the Portuguese driver’s funding fell through.

Spanish media sources said Soucek, 24, will test for one day at Barcelona, the scene of the final pre-season test between Thursday and Sunday.

Exclusive Q&A with Andy Soucek

Reigning F2 champion talks about his graduation to Formula One
The official Formula Two website spoke to 2009 FIA Formula Two Champion Andy Soucek today (23 February) following confirmation that the Spaniard has signed with the Virgin F1 team as their official reserve driver for the 2010 season. Andy is currently testing the Williams JPH1B F2 car in Barcelona and the 24-year-old took time out to talk about his F1 future and Formula Two…

Tell us how you feel having achieved a lifelong ambition to reach Formula One.

“It feels great. I couldn’t quite believe it even as I was signing the contract. To have joined a Formula One team and knowing that I could be competing in Grands Prix if I am required is a fantastic feeling. It will be a difficult job, but I know that I will learn a lot in preparation for racing in F1. One of the key aspects that excited me about this project is that I will be heavily involved with the team from the outset. I will get to use the simulator, I will be at every test and Grand Prix, and I will be in every meeting between the drivers and engineers, so I will be a real member of the team.”

How important a role did your championship winning season in F2 play in helping you reach F1?

“Winning the FIA Formula Two Championship and the prize of a test drive in Formula One really helped to raise my profile. I had some good results when I was in GP2, but it was only once I started winning in F2 that things really started to develop. Everyone knows that in F2 it is the driver that makes the difference and I feel that my performance last year showed people I was good enough for F1. Of course, the prize was a massive boost as I got to show my abilities in an F1 car in Jerez. This experience went very well, but it would not have been possible if I hadn’t succeeded in Formula Two.”

What would you say to any talented young drivers who are considering joining F2 and what do you feel are the main benefits of competing in the championship?

”I would recommend Formula Two to any young driver, and particularly those who do not have the big budgets required to compete in GP2. F2 is a great step towards Formula One and it is a great place to learn. People say that it is difficult when you do not work with a team but it means the driver in Formula Two is responsible for every single detail. Of course working with teams during your career is important, but in F2 you have to work extremely hard to achieve the most out of the experience and that is what I think makes Formula Two so special.”

You have been heavily involved in the testing and development of the newly upgraded Williams JPH1B. How has this been going and do you expect to continue in the role?

“Well I am actually testing the car in Barcelona again today, but this could be my last one before the new season. If I am asked to test the F2 car again in the future then I will always want to do it. I have enjoyed being part of the programme and as a driver it is always good to keep clocking up the miles! I did a lot of laps yesterday as we are here with Avon testing various new tyre compounds for 2010. Things have been going well over the winter and the improvement in the car has been very impressive. The team is doing a great job and we are still learning all the time.

“In general, I will keep a close eye on the F2 championship this season and will try to attend any races that I can. If there is not a clash with my schedule then it would be great to be at the final round in Valencia to see the new F2 champion crowned.”

Moving back to your future in Formula One – when do you expect to drive the Virgin Racing VR-01 car for the first time?

”I am not 100% sure yet but it will be very soon. I will be with the team in Barcelona later this week and I cannot wait to get my first experience in the car. Having previously tested with Toyota and more recently with Williams it will be fantastic to drive another Formula One car. I am excited to see and feel how the car behaves and then hopefully I will be able to assist the team in developing the car further. Coming into a team that is new on the grid is very exciting as you really feel that you can make a difference.”

source: virginracing.com / GMM / formulatwo.com