Having succeeded in registering its maiden F1 finish when the plucky Karun Chandhok took the chequered flag 14th in last weekend's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, the sport's newest team Hispania Racing (HRT) has now shifted the goalposts for the upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang – with a two-car finish the clear goal.
With no pre-season testing mileage under its belt at all, HRT's debut in the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir early last month was always likely to be a distinctly troubled affair, and so it was to prove. Similarly, few would have offered any great hope of the Spanish outfit going the distance Down Under, with Chandhok having completed only eight laps in the desert kingdom.
However, whilst the sister Dallara-designed, Cosworth-powered machine of Bruno Senna dropped out of contention in Albert Park with hydraulic failure only four laps in, Chandhok's performance demonstrated that progress is being made.
“I am really looking forward to my third F1 race,” enthused only the second-ever Indian ever to compete at the highest level. “I have already driven a number of times in Malaysia and even won on the track in Renault V6. I was on the front row with iSport in GP2 Asia and also raced there many times in Formula Asia.
“My good winter preparation paid off and I was very fit after my full Australian Grand Prix, and have not even felt sore after the race. This is a good sign for Malaysia, where conditions are usually hot and demanding. I am looking for another great achievement for our young team.”
“I didn't intend my second grand prix to end with a hydraulic failure, but that's racing!” added a phlegmatic Senna. “I made a good start [in Melbourne] and was 14th after the big crash in front. It was fantastic for the team to make it to the finish, though, and we have got a great deal of data to work from for Malaysia – I hope we can finish with two cars there.
“I'm looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix. I am very excited to go to Malaysia, as I have driven there in GP2 so I know the track well. This will free my mind, and I hope we will have a better race in terms of performance – so let's see what I can do in Sepang!”
Between them, Chandhok and Senna have now completed just over 1,200km – whilst not a great deal by any means, still a considerable accomplishment given the chaotic manner in which HRT reached the grid following José Ramón Carabante's eleventh-hour takeover of the beleaguered Campos Meta 1 effort in late February. The Murcia-based operation's team principal Colin Kolles admits that once reliability has been achieved, the quest for outright speed can begin.
“We reached our goal with one of our two cars making it to the finish,” the German reflected of Australia. “Now we want to hit a new target and finish with both cars. From there on, we will be focussing increasingly on improving the car's overall pace and performance.”