Team Manager Mark Salmon talks Virtuosi’s British F4 debut: ‘New car makes it an equal playing field’

Virtuosi Racing will make their British F4 debut in 2022, seeking to build on the success they have found in FIA Formula 2. F1 Feeder Series spoke to team manager Mark Salmon ahead of the season’s start, exploring the team’s motivations behind this year’s entrance and their hopes to secure a long-awaited constructors title. 

By Aisha Sembhi

Mark Salmon is Virtuosi’s British F4 team manager, leading the team into their first British F4 entrance in 2022. “I was the manager of [Guanyu] Zhou, that’s how I got into this role.” Salmon explains,. “He came to England at the age of 12 to pursue a racing career, and he happened to come to the team I was working at. I ended up managing from then, until last year.”

Zhou started his competitive karting career in 2012, with the Sheffield-based team Strawberry Racing. Since then, Zhou competed in Italian F4, before moving onto FIA European Formula 3 Championship and FIA Formula 2. In 2022, he will be competing in Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo.

Salmon’s success with Zhou led him to his current role as British F4 team manager:  “I’ve worked at the younger levels throughout my whole career, from karting to single-seaters. I got approached by Virtuosi to take the F4 team manager role because of this. The contacts I’ve gained through that work well with Virtuosi’s name and experience as a team that seeks to educate.”

Virtuosi Racing British F4 2022
Michael Shin & Mark Salmon (Virtuosi Racing) | Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Virtuosi’s First Season in F4

2022 will mark Salmon’s first season as a race manager, as well as Virtuosi’s first entrance in the British F4 championship. Despite being a new team on the grid this year, Salmon is optimistic about the season ahead: “It’s all new to me as well! But we can learn together, no problem.”

When discussing the team’s motivations behind entering the series, Salmon describes Virtuosi’s long standing desire to branch out into multiple championships. “We’ve looked at entering another championship for quite a few years now. It was just a matter of deciding which one was correct. Nothing was lined up until England announced that they were going across to a new car this year, the Tatuus F4.”

We’ve looked at entering another championship for quite a few years now

Mark Salmon (Virtuosi Racing Team Manager)

The 2022 British F4 season will see a move away from the Mygale-provided chassis and Hankook tyre, to the Tatuus chassis and Pirelli tyre. For Virtuosi, the new car is an indicator of a level playing field for all teams entering, regardless of previous experience in the championship. “The new car makes it an equal playing field for new teams joining the championship.” Salmon explains, “If we’d entered prior, we’d be on the backfoot. The timing of committing to the new Tatuus car made it feasible for us to enter this year.”

Replicating F2 Success

Virtuosi have competed in FIA F2 since 2019, finishing 2nd in the constructor’s championship since their first entrance. “We’ve been successful in the F2 championship, so we’re trying to apply the same methodology, infrastructure, and engineering bases that we use there. We want to bring that to F4 this season.”

One specific change to the championship may serve as an advantage to Virtuosi:  “F4’s going across to the Pirelli tyre this season. In F2, Virtuosi is known for being very good with tyre management. We feel that this change is a huge benefit for us.”

We’ve built a whole new team for F4 in order to avoid spreading ourselves too thin

Mark Salmon

In order to successfully replicate the team’s successes in F2, Salmon and his F4 team are approaching the 2022 season with collaboration from individuals involved in the more senior series: “We’ve got our engineers in F2 now, working alongside us with full backing and support. They’re technically seperate teams, but we all work alongside each other in, bringing everything – the experience and knowledge – that we had in F2 into F4.”

Whilst a joint approach is ideal for preparation, Salmon reiterates that Virtuosi’s F4 team will compete independently: “F2 is still F2. We’ve built a whole new team for F4 in order to avoid spreading ourselves too thin. We need to make sure both teams can stand alone comfortably.”

Team expectations

When discussing team objectives in 2022, Salmon has one primary expectation: “This year, we want to be competing at the front end.” he says. “We want a successful season. It’s going to be a learning year, obviously, but we’re working every hour under the sun to make sure we’ve got everything in place to achieve this.”

With a well-established name in the senior feeder series, Virtuosi has its eye on the top spot in 2022. “The main objective is to go out there and win the constructors title. Of course, it’s a hard job to do, and to say we’ll win it outright is tough in your first year. But that’s our aim this season.”

The main objective is to go out there and win the constructors title

Mark Salmon

Salmon singles out Carlin as a potential primary rival for 2022, highlighting their previous experience in the series and well-established reputation as a front runner in British motorsport. “They’re a good team, they’ve got good guys working there, and, of course, they’ve done the British championship before. With the drivers they’ve got, I can see them as being the hardest to beat this year.”

“But we’re all starting from scratch this year. Apart from them knowing the circuits, everything else is a level playing field. I can imagine all the teams will be strong this year!”

Virtuosi Racing British F4 2022
Edward Pearson & Mark Salmon (Virtuosi Racing) | Credit: Virtuosi Racing

Driver selection

Virtuosi have, so far, made two driver announcement in 2022 – 15-year-old Edward Pearson joins the team as well as Michael Shin (17). Salmon’s approach to Pearson’s management is similar to that of Zhou, in which pastoral care is prioritised alongside motorsport development. “All the drivers at this level are very young, so we need to strike a fine balance between school, self care, and motorsport.”

When discussing Pearson’s development so far, Salmon praises the progress made in a short space of time: “Edward signed at the end of January, and we’ve been doing lots of behind the scenes work with him. The progression we’re making, and have already made in the weeks we’ve had, is quite extraordinary.”

All the drivers at this level are very young, so we need to strike a fine balance between school, self care, and motorsport

Mark Salmon

“We’re going in the right direction with Edward. Virtuosi is very strong at educating young drivers, and he’s making great progress.”

Salmon makes clear the driver’s objective for the season ahead – is to continue on a path of upwards trajectory. “The most important thing is that we don’t go back to square one. We just need to try to start where we finished in the previous testing. We’re just aiming to keep him improving, and climbing up that ladder of progression.”

Team spirit

In conversation with Salmon, it is clear that Virtuosi is a team built on collaboration. The dedication to positive team spirit is well emphasised, and established throughout the paddock. Salmon describes the advantage this approach will bring the team in 2022: “The mechanics and the engineers here, they’re doing such a good job. They’re putting in incredible hours. It’s such a tight turnaround between tests.”

“There’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of time, effort, and dedication invested by the team. We’re massively looking forward to the season ahead, and hope to get some good wins early on.

Header photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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