The arrival of new owners Thesan Capital injected a degree of optimism into the HRT F1 operation ahead of the 2012 campaign, but technical chief Jacky Eeckelaert has warned fans not to get their hopes up to much.
While few expect the Spanish minnow to vault its way up the grid after two trying seasons in the top flight, Eeckelaert warns that the height of the team's ambition will be fighting for eleventh place in the pecking order, much as it did in 2010 and 2011. HRT has filled just one of its seats for the coming season, after confirming the return of Pedro de la Rosa to a race ride, but is in no rush to name a partner for the Spaniard as it concentrates on getting its first 'self-built' car ready for pre-season testing.
“We hope to continue our battle at the back of the pack with Virgin,” Eeckelaert told Belgium's La Libre
newspaper, forgetting that the British outfit will be running under solely the Marussia banner in 2012, “It is difficult to aim higher."
The need to take technical matters into its own hands will be the limiting factor when it comes to moving up the grid, according to the veteran engineer, with the decision to relocate the heart of the team back to Spain also playing a part. In an attempt to create a greater Spanish aura around an outfit that has been based largely in Germany through its first two years, HRT is planning to set up shop in Valencia, while the addition of de la Rosa over other more expected driver options also contributes to the image the team wants to portray in 2012. However, the move also has its own complications in terms of continuity.
“The new owners decided to move the team with the result that 90 per cent of the staff in Germany will not follow us," Eeckelaert revealed, "This is unfortunate because, even if the car did not work, the team was beginning to work well together. Now it's as though we are beginning again with a new team.
"The Dallara chassis we used in our first two seasons was clearly not good enough so, in our German workshop, we have built our own HRT to be powered by the Cosworth V8. However, we started fresh in September, later than the others, and so we cannot have fantasies."