‘Impossible’ to keep HRT going – boss Sala

Team boss Luis Perez-Sala has admitted the HRT dream is over.

After three seasons at the back of the F1 grid, the Spanish backmarker has folded, even though official confirmation has been lacking so far.

“It was impossible to go on,” Sala, a former Minardi driver who was brought in by new owners Thesan Capital to run the team this year, told El Mundo Deportivo newspaper.

“When we decided to take charge of the team, we were promised aid that never arrived,” he added.

HRT, founded as Campos Meta 1 and also known as Hispania, never scored a point.

Perez-Sala: First taste of HRT was a total disaster

Aug.6 (GMM) HRT boss Luis Perez-Sala has admitted his first taste of the struggling Spanish team was not a happy one.

The former Minardi driver was appointed by HRT’s new owners Thesan Capital last year. His first taste of life at HRT under his predecessor Colin Kolles’ rule was at the 2011 British grand prix.

“What I saw, I did not like,” Perez-Sala told El Pais newspaper. “It was a total disaster. There was no organisation, no credibility. No aerodynamic research. No home, no identity.

“Everything was outsourced. No technician was based at the same place. They said it was a Spanish team, but there was nothing Spanish.”

Since then – even though HRT remains at the rear of the grid – a lot has changed. Perez-Sala, who has overseen the team’s relocation to plush headquarters in Madrid, said the restructuring followed an “autopsy” of HRT’s first two seasons as Campos and Hispania.

“It was clear that Pedro (de la Rosa) had to be with us,” he explained. “He was the key. He was Spanish, he is experienced, he is honest. He has been more than ten years in formula one, knows everyone and knows how to develop a car with the mechanics and the engineers.

“He contributes a lot as a driver, but having him with us helps us to grow, to have a plan without taking stabs in the dark.”

De la Rosa, who was enticed by Sala to join HRT despite being offered only half the pay of his McLaren reserve role, admits he too had a “bad” first impression of the team.

“They had been in Formula One two years and yet it did not look like a serious project. They had a bad structure that was difficult to change. I wanted to sign before, but I had no trust. When I saw Luis was there, I thought about it.

“Then there were some good arguments: to race again with a team with a Spanish license, Spanish bosses, mechanics and engineers, a Spanish driver. I liked the idea of being here (in Spain) not in England where the other teams are, but to create something different and a structure that is staying in Spain. It sounded good,” said de la Rosa.

HRT’s chief executive Saul Ruiz de Marcos revealed that the team’s budget in 2012 is EUR 50 million, which is seven times less than the biggest teams, and half that of immediate competitor Caterham.

“If we succeed, we can get sponsors and make money in three years,” he said. “The secret is to spend every last euro to develop the car aerodynamically, which is where you gain the most time.”

De Marcos said one strategy is to “get closer” to the lucrative Indian and Chinese markets, which have not yet been fully tapped by formula one.

“We already have a driver of Indian nationality, Narain Karthikeyan,” he said, “and we are developing what will be the first Chinese driver in the history of formula one, Ma Qing Hua.”


HRT confirms Silverstone test going ahead

A young driver test is going ahead at Silverstone next week.

Earlier, Mercedes’ Norbert Haug described as “ridiculous” the confusion surrounding the plans, after some teams baulked at running at Abu Dhabi as scheduled in November due to the calendar congestion in 2012. F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone then threw water on the alternate Silverstone plan because, technically, he controls a grand prix venue in the days before and after a world championship round.

The Spanish backmarker HRT, however, has confirmed it will definitely be in action at Silverstone next Thursday and Friday.

“An agreement has been finally reached”, the team said in a statement.

Boss Luis Perez-Sala added: “The fact that these tests will finally be able to take place at Silverstone is great news for us because it fits perfectly with the next step that we had planned for (Chinese driver) Ma Qing Hua’s development programme.”


Boss Sala hints HRT to keep Cosworth for 2013

Luis Perez-Sala has indicated HRT wants to keep its Cosworth engines for the 2013 season.

It emerged recently that, with the independent British engine supplier losing key clients Williams and Caterham recently, Cosworth might not develop a V6 engine for the all-new 2014 regulations. Citing paddock speculation, the media reports even suggested the viability of Cosworth staying in F1 for the final V8 season next year is in doubt. The engine maker’s last remaining F1 customers are backmarkers HRT and Marussia.

HRT team boss Perez-Sala suggested the Spanish team wanted to maintain stability for 2013. Asked by El Confidencial if the team will have a new engine supplier next year, he answered: “For next year, although it is not finalised, the idea is to keep what we have.

“As a team we have made a big change this year and what we need is to consolidate and improve on what we have. So we cannot be changing too much when in 2014 there is such an important transformation. We expect that the coming (2013) campaign will be a continuation,” added Sala.

He also suggested that Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa is a vital player in the HRT project going forwards.

When asked if he can imagine HRT without the experienced former McLaren test driver on board, Perez-Sala answered: “So far, no … I can not imagine it!”


Sala: KERS unlikely for HRT in 2012

HRT’s team boss has admitted installing KERS is an unlikely goal for the struggling Spanish team this year. Luis Perez Sala said the new F112 was designed to accommodate the energy-recovery technology, but qualifying comfortably within the 107 per cent rule is a better target for now.

“We have a car we are yet to discover,” he told El Confidencial.

Indeed, HRT travelled to Australia last month having hardly run its new Cosworth-powered car, and failed to qualify for the season opener.

“It is designed to carry KERS but in the short term we will not (use it). We don’t think we’re going to race with it this year,” he added. “So, in this respect, it’s not perfect. Right now, we have assembled the car in a hurry and so the private testing at Mugello, just after Bahrain, will be very important to us.”

Sala, having rebuilt HRT following the departure of team boss Colin Kolles, was speaking from HRT’s new headquarters at the Caja Magica (Magic Box).

“After Bahrain, we will have the cars here. From the Spanish grand prix, we will begin to function more effectively. In China and Bahrain we will improve things in the car and the team, but it is a slow process that will last all year.

“As I sit here (in Madrid), some people are in Valencia, others in Germany, England … the cars are flying to China and we need to address issues of reliability, not just performance.”

It is a tough situation for HRT, but Sala concedes that the ‘paddock perception’ of the team is that it has gone backwards since debuting in 2010.

“It is really our first year,” he insists.

He reveals that Bernie Ecclestone, once a staunch critic of the struggling backmarkers, is “quiet”.

“We have not had any problems, I think he is calm,” said Sala.

It is also a busy time off the track for HRT, as many rival teams are busily signing the new Concorde Agreement for 2013.

“There are teams that are more advanced than others; for us, the negotiations are still at the beginning,” he said.

The most obvious goals right now, Sala insists, are to have “a team that works together, has a reliable car and a small team that can develop it, and we’re around 105pc off the pole”.