Formula E Preview: Virgin Racing

Virgin Racing Formula E

Ahead of the inaugural Formula E race weekend we're taking a look at the series' runners and riders. Next up, Richard Branson's Virgin Racing, who will field Sam Bird and Jaime Alguersuari.

Former F1 squad Virgin Racing return to top-line motorsport this year in Formula E. Sort of, anyway. The team that managed their grand prix effort in 2010/11 are not involved - they're busy running Marussia F1 - but Richard Branson returns as money-man and figurehead, while Alex Tai, who had some involvement with the F1 project, is the new team principal.

Their driver lineup is among the younger on the grid, but there's no shortage of experience between Jaime Aluersuari and Sam Bird. They have looked solid in testing and will be expected to run among them top 10 come the opening race in China.

27-year-old Bird has plenty of single-seater experience, including three seasons in GP2 and one in Formula Renault 3.5. It is worth noting that he was always very fast when those series visited Monaco, which bodes well in a championship that competes exclusively on street circuits.

His testing times have been the better of the two Virgin drivers, so it would be no surprise to see Bird battling for a podium in China. After a number of near misses, the Brit will be determined to finally seal his first single-seater title.

No one will be keener to hit the track this weekend than his team-mate, 24-year-old ex-F1 racer Jaime Alguersuari. Since being dropped by Toro Rosso at the end of the 2011 season Alguersuari has done no professional racing and only a small amount of testing. That is a real shame because the Spaniard is clearly very talented, but one wonders whether he should have thrown himself at another opportunity before this.

That was his decision, however, and his big comeback arrives this weekend. He should be on the pace and will be extremely hungry to show what he can do. If he gets some strong results early on Jaime could be a dark horse for the title.