After a stronger-than-expected showing in the recent Chinese Grand Prix, the entire Hispania Racing Team is looking forward to returning to action at Istanbul Park in this weekend's Turkish F1 round.
Although Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan remained on the back row of the grid at the Shanghai International Circuit, both were closer to those ahead of them than they had been in the opening two rounds, having earlier posted faster times than their rivals in free practice. Both drivers also saw the chequered flag for the first time in 2011, with Liuzzi posting a quicker best race lap than either Timo Glock or Jerome d'Ambrosio.
The Italian could have had a shot at finishing ahead of the red-and-black machines too, had it not been for a drive-thru' penalty incurred for jumping the start, and team boss Colin Kolles was sufficiently encouraged to suggest that there could be better to come in Turkey.
“I believe that the Turkish Grand Prix should see Hispania Racing take the next step," he claimed, "Istanbul Park is a track that, due to its nature, should be favourable for us, add to that the fact that we have aerodynamic and mechanical updates for this race and I think that, if the data is confirmed on track, we should be able to beat our closest rivals.
“Our aim for the weekend is to close the gap with respect to our closest competitors in qualifying and fight for positions in the race, hopefully getting both cars over the finish line. I think that, due to the tyre situation, we should see a very close race, and anything is possible. In terms of speed, Red Bull is ahead, but you never know what will happen. Hispania Racing has made significant progress since the start of the season, and we are working very hard to improve - and we definitely will
Liuzzi has good memories of Istanbul Park and is looking forward to returning - even if he is unlikely to repeat the accident-inspired run to the front he enjoyed with Toro Rosso in 2006.
"It is a very technical circuit, where I enjoy racing, and I remember when I went from 16th to sixth after a great start," he smiled, aware that the STR01 was far from a frontrunning machine, "Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish that race because of a differential problem, but I expect a vibrant race with a lot of overtaking [this year].
“I think we should be in much better shape due to the updates arriving here in Turkey and after the time [we've managed] out on the track in the last few races. Every minute on the track is important for us, and our target for Turkey is to verify that our updates are working as per plan, closing the gap on the leaders and obviously finishing the race ahead of our direct competitors. If everything goes to plan, I think Hispania Racing can surprise a lot of people by closing the gap considerably with respect to other teams, thereby showing how serious our intentions of growing are.”
Karthikeyan, meanwhile, has less Istanbul Park experience to call on, having only appeared in the inaugural event during his single season with Jordan, but he is looking forward to returning, and helping to prove that HRT should be taken seriously.
“I don't have great memories of this circuit as my only previous visit in 2005 with Jordan GP was marred by mechanical problems, but my memories of Turkey itself are great,” he noted, “Istanbul Park is a medium to high downforce track so, hopefully, with the new aerodynamic upgrades on the car, we'll be able to find a good balance on the car.
“I hope to continue from where I left off in Shanghai by finishing the race, gathering valuable data and getting closer to optimising the potential of the F111, which I know has a lot more to give. We are moving in a good direction ever since our first race in Malaysia, so I'm sure that with the upgrades due on the car for Turkey, we will take another step forward towards challenging the teams who are just in front of us.”