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HRT gets boost from ex-Telefonica president

Former Telefonica president Juan Villalonga has joined Hispania Racing in a bid to strengthen the Spanish outfit after a disappointing debut season.
Despite rumours regarding its future still doing the rounds in F1 circles, Hispania Racing opened the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend by announcing a new partner that it hopes will breathe new life into its programme.

Spanish businessman Juan Villalonga, formerly president of telecommunications giant Telefonica, has joined forces with current owner - and saviour of the struggling Campos Meta1 outfit - Jose Ramon Carabante, and both claim that their partnership will 'reinforce the team' and 'create and strengthen the project'. The immediate aim, following the recently announced agreement to use transmission systems supplied by F1 rival Williams, is to be able to field much more competitive team than has been the case in 2010, where Bruno Senna and several team-mates have struggled to even match the pace of fellow newcomers Lotus and Virgin.

“He has always felt, as I do, a clear passion for motorsport,” Carabante said of Villalonga, who was behind Telefonica's backing of Minardi in the late 1990s and of Renault during Fernando Alonso's title heyday, “We will substantially strengthen our ability to generate innovative activities in marketing and sponsorship with his incorporation, [while] we will also be able to make the best of his leadership, knowledge and relationships in the fields of technology and communications, and therefore be able to fully exploit the opportunities we are given after this tough first year. This is a sum that multiplies and enhances our ability to grow as a team.”

Villalonga established a reputation as one of the most influential Spanish businessmen of the 21st century, with a high-profile career including prominent roles at Telefonica - which he took from a state-owned monopoly to one of the top three telecommunication companies in the world - as well as McKinsey & Company, Credit Suisse First Boston and Bankers' Trust in Spain. He is currently a business advisor and accelerator for companies and management teams worldwide and was this year named among the world's top 100 CEOs by Harvard Business Review.

“F1 is always associated with innovation, research and technology, and Hispania Racing must be represented on that level, with a stable leadership,” he noted, "The key is the quality - and not the quantity - of sponsors, and the immediate goal is to help develop new relationships with them, leading to the creation of more value for all implicated parts.”

Prompted in part by the most recent criticism of the newcomer teams - in which only Lotus emerged with any praise and the term 'cripples' was used to loosely describe Virgin and HRT, Carabante and Villalonga made sure to meet with Bernie Ecclestone to explain the project and the future of their programme.

"I believe HRT, the people from Spain, have now got a guy that I know, a financial backer," Ecclestone told Reuters before the news went public, "If they have it, super. We need the teams if they are financially sound."



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