Suggestions among Crash.net
forum users that Dani Clos may be in line for an F1 race debut by mid-season could be nearer the mark than many expect, amid suggestions that Narain Karthikeyan could again be a fall guy at HRT.
The Indian began the 2011 campaign with the team, which was then owned by Jose Ramon Carabante, but was dropped ahead of the British Grand Prix when Red Bull came looking for a berth in which Daniel Ricciardo could gain race experience. Now, despite other drivers being on the market and HRT being owned by Thesan Capital, Karthikeyan was re-signed to partner Pedro de la Rosa in one of the oldest partnerships on the grid. However, as in 2011, he could again find himself going from race-to-race without knowing how long his return will last.
"The idea, as of now, is to race him the whole season," new team principal Luis Perez Sala told the Indo-Asian News Service
, "But nothing is taken for granted in F1. You have to work for your place in every race but, as things stand, Karthikeyan and Pedro will race the entire season."
Karthikeyan has yet to hit the track in 2012, as de la Rosa conducted the only two days of testing the HRT team has planned before the launch of its new car. That moment, however, has been delayed by the F112 failing sections of the mandatory FIA crash test, and now deciding to skip next week's Barcelona test in favour of concentrating on finishing the machine. It is hoped that the launch and recommencement of testing will happen at the third and final group test, again in Barcelona, in early March.
Despite the setback, however, Sala is confident that his team can be ahead of fellow struggler Marussia - also to reveal its 2012 contender - as the season develops.
"We have a new car and a new team and that means, to start with, we will be a little bit behind," he noted, "But we believe that sometimes, to improve, you must go backwards firstly. We have taken one step backwards in order to take two forward. Our target is to grow little by little as the season goes on.
"If we can stay ahead of Marussia, we will be happy and, if we get closer to Caterham, then we will be delighted. But our first objective is to get things under way, improve on reliability and progress as the season advances."
As well as announcing a planned relocation to Madrid's Caja Magica, HRT also revealed erstwhile GP2 Series racewinner Clos as its official reserve for 2012. The 23-year old, who raced last season with Racing Engineering, has previously tested with Williams and will take in several Friday free practice sessions this year, as well as being on hand when HRT unveils its 2012 car at his home circuit, the Circuit de Catalunya, next month.