In what will be its second home outing, Hispania Racing (HRT) is quietly confident of a 'competitive' showing and of continuing to 'fight for positions with other teams' in the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend, as the F1 2010 newcomer bids to drag itself away from the rear of the grid.
Having begun its maiden campaign of top flight competition predictably some way shy of the leading pace – with no time for any pre-season testing ahead of the Bahrain curtain-raiser – HRT has shown genuine signs of progress of late, with Bruno Senna out-qualifying a rival team's car for two races in succession in Istanbul and Montreal, as the young Brazilian outpaced countryman Lucas Di Grassi in the Virgin entry on both occasions.
With the configuration of the 25-turn, stop-start harbourside Valencia Street Circuit – skimming past the quay, through the port and historic fish market and along the docks and shipyard gates of the Juan Carlos I Marina in the Spanish city – and the anticipated low-grip level due to its scant use for racing purposes, many are predicting a processional, overtaking-free race on Sunday, but both Senna and fellow rookie team-mate Karun Chandhok are palpably eager to get out on-track.
“I am really looking forward to Valencia, because it is a circuit where I had a good performance in GP2 in 2008,” affirmed the Paulista. “The circuit is difficult with some very technical corners, but the biggest challenges are the bridge – which is very narrow and bumpy – and the last corner, into which you arrive at very high-speed. Then, you have to slow the car down turning into the hairpin.
“On this circuit, it is very important to find the right set-up for tight, slow corners and good traction. As it is not a very high-downforce circuit, we may be able to have a competitive weekend again and I hope we will continue having good races.”
“It is the second home race this year for our team in Valencia, and the atmosphere there is normally quite good and very special,” added Chandhok, only the second Indian ever to compete at the highest level. “I am looking forward to the event on this circuit, and I already raced there in GP2.
“The track is not a traditional street circuit, as it is very wide and has a lot of run-off areas unlike Monaco or Montreal. There are long straights and low-speed corners where you have to jump the kerbs to be quick. You will need good stability on the brakes, compliance on the kerbs and good traction. For Valencia, we hope to show a good performance like we did in the races before.”
Those sentiments are echoed by the Murcia-based outfit's team principal Dr. Colin Kolles, whose hope it is for HRT to build upon the steps forward taken particularly in Canada, when both Senna and Chandhok were able to duel it out on the circuit with the Virgin machines of Di Grassi and Timo Glock.
“There is a special atmosphere at the Valencia Street Circuit because it is situated around the harbour,” stated the former Force India, Midland, Spyker and Jordan man. “It is not easy to find the right set-up for the car because of the track layout with high-speed straights and low-speed corners. You need low downforce on the straights, but high downforce and traction for accelerating after slow and slippery corners.
“Due to the coastal location of the circuit, a strong sea breeze can also cause balance problems. The drivers have to be concentrated during the 57 laps of the race, and due to normally high air temperatures, it is going to be a physically tough race. After our good performance in Canada, we are aiming to fight for positions with other teams again.”