Hispania Racing is heading into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix – the third round of the F1 2011 World Championship – in a far more 'confident' frame of mind than it approached last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix and targeting 'a good position' in qualifying in Shanghai.
The struggling Spanish outfit endured a shambles during the F1 2011 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last month, failing to qualify with either car after turning barely a handful of laps during practice with its untried F111, and none at all in pre-season testing – prompting former Red Bull Racing star-turned-BBC F1
commentator David Coulthard to ponder in his regular column for The Daily Telegraph
'how serious HRT are'.
“Turning up at the first grand prix with an untested car?” the Scot wrote. “You have got to question how serious HRT are. I could understand if this was their first season, but it is their second. There are a lot of unanswered questions about what they are doing.”
However, Sepang happily witnessed a sizeable step in the right direction, with rather more mileage for both Force India refugee Vitantonio Liuzzi and F1 returnee Narain Karthikeyan and both drivers making the grade in Q1 – if, perhaps predictably, not going the distance in the race itself. Hispania team principal Colin Kolles is hopeful of a further step forward in Shanghai – and a two-car finish.
“It's always nice to be in China,” he reflected. “The weather conditions will be very different from Malaysia – temperatures will be much lower, so we'll face the race in a different way. The track is quite impressive, and we will have small improvements regarding the rear wing and overall aerodynamic improvements. There will be small improvements which are all part of the update package for Turkey, and we'll be looking to make the most of them.”
Liuzzi achieved his equal-best result in F1 in the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix with sixth place for Scuderia Toro Rosso, whilst Karthikeyan crashed out of his sole appearance to-date in Shanghai in 2005 – a race that had, until a few months ago, appeared to signal the end of his top flight career. Despite their diverging fortunes there, both men are palpably looking forward to returning this weekend.
“I've got very good memories from the Chinese Grand Prix,” confessed the Italian. “I drove one of my best races here back in 2007 when I finished sixth with Toro Rosso. It was a tough race, but I really enjoyed it. The circuit isn't too technical but has a very nice shape which allows a lot of overtaking, and the weather is a little bit crazy so the races tend to be a lot of fun.
“After the weekend in Malaysia, we are a lot more confident heading into this race. We are confident the team will work better, we've got a lot more data to work on and we have a better idea of what the car needs. We also have some upgrades which will help us to be quicker and get closer to our competitors. We are aiming to qualify closer to our main rivals, maybe even ahead of them. Once again, we are targeting finishing the race and getting more information on the car in order to be better-prepared for the European races.”
“I like the Shanghai International Circuit,” echoed Karthikeyan. “It's a fast, challenging track. I raced there in F1 back in 2005 and also in A1GP, so I know what we're up against. The conditions are very different to Malaysia, with lower temperatures, so we must try and adapt the F111 to the track and try and get the most out of the new package. The target for the team is to qualify in a good position and, personally, I'm looking to finish the race.”