14 March 2010
HRT targets experience tester
F1 newcomer HRT is rumoured to be looking to hire a grand prix veteran in a bid to close the gap on its rivals.
The Hispania Racing F1 Team is rumoured to be considering bringing in an experienced Formula One hand in a bid to speed up the development of its Dallara-built car after a slow start to the 2010 season.
The Spanish outfit's biggest problem lies in the fact that it had yet to turn a wheel before it turned out for practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday, having only confirmed its participation in the weeks before the new season kicked off. Amid financial woes that eventually led to Jose Ramon Carabante buying out co-owner Adrian Campos and installing former Midland, Spyker and Force India team boss Colin Kolles to pull the project together, it was no surprise to see rookie drivers Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok beset by gremlins over the first two days of action in Sakhir.
Indeed, the Indian was in danger of not qualifying for his debut event after failing to hit the track in any of the three practice sessions, but a concerted effort by the HRT engineers and determined - if slightly risk-laden - effort in Q3 eventually saw him make the grade and line up on the back row alongside team-mate Senna.
With two inexperienced drivers on board, however, Kolles is aware that development progress is likely to be slow, and was spotted giving former Force India pilot Giancarlo Fisichella a tour of the HRT garage on the opening day of the Bahrain meeting. The Italian is currently employed by Ferrari - ironically, the most outspoken critic of this season's new teams - but is being rumoured as a possible contributor to the HRT cause, along with the out-of-work Christian Klien.
The Austrian had hoped to restart his F1 career with the addition of three new teams to the grid in 2010, even ending his relationship with Peugeot's factory sportscar effort, but remains on the sidelines and, for the first time in several seasons, is absent from the opening round.
However, Austrian broadcaster ORF claims that the 27-year old is also being considered by HRT as a possible development driver, with Kolles rumoured to be considering paying for the benefit experience could bring in the battle to match up to fellow newcomers Virgin and Lotus.
“The first four races will be our tests,” Carabante admitted to Spain's El Pais, "Where we will really begin is in Spain.”
The team, meanwhile, has again denied the German manufacturer Volkswagen will become involved in its F1 programme, despite rumours linking a German investment group, perhaps with links to VW, is among its backers.
“Meta 1 failed to get even one sponsor and sold its shares to me," Carabante insisted, "I have had no contact with a German investment group. We are beginning to get money from Brazil, India and Murcia, [the last of which] gives us €3m annually over the next three years.”
Brazilian bank Banco Cruzeiro do Sul was a notable addition to the side of the Dallara-built HRT entries in Bahrain, despite Senna not having been expected to bring financial support to secure his seat.
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