At the same time as Spanish struggler HRT was confirming rumours that it could sit out the second F1 group test of the winter next week, fellow backmarker Marussia has revealed that it will be present at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Like HRT, the Banbury-based team has yet to unveil its 2012 car, but has kept a lot lower profile than its rival - which this week confirmed the addition of a three-star chef to its line-up! Now that speculation over its driver line-up has died down, following the confirmation of Vitaly Petrov at Caterham rather than as a possible replacement for Timo Glock, it can concentrate on its preparations for the year ahead.
With rookie Charles Pic
joining Glock in the squad, track time will be vital to give the young Frenchman as much opportunity as possible to acclimatise from GP2 before the season opens for real in Australia. As a result, Pic is expected to get at least an equal share of the running with Glock in Barcelona, even though the team will still be using its 2011-spec car. Marussia opted to miss the recent Jerez test - which HRT attended for two days - in order to concentrate on the development of its 2012 model.
"We've taken on a huge challenge following the exit of Nick Wirth and to build a new car from scratch is demanding, but we are certainly up for that challenge," CEO Andy Webb told Britain's Daily Mail
newspaper recently, "We have decided that it is the best thing for us to reach Barcelona initially with the 2011 car, and then for the second Barcelona test with the 2012 car. That's the plan."
Webb was also open to the possibility of retaining Pic for a second season, despite the team's recent record of ditching its recruits without the benefit of a second campaign. Lucas di Grassi
and Jerome d'Ambrosio were both dispensed with as soon as their debut season was over, with Pic announced as replacing the Belgian almost before the dust had settled on Interlagos.
"We like to have a range of talent coming through if we can, and I think that Charles looked very promising in the Abu Dhabi rookie test," Webb explained, "We like the way he operated and he's come through very well. I think there is some long-term potential for him [and] I'm looking really to see if he can go forward for more than one year. It's early days yet considering he hasn't got on the grid, but it's very promising."
di Grassi and d'Ambrosio have both remained in F1 following their exits from Marussia (nee Virgin), with the former now helping to develop the latest range of Pirelli tyres and the latter joining Lotus F1 as its official reserve.