F1 backmarker HRT has finally filled the void created by the pre-season exit of Geoff Willis, naming veteran engineer Toni Cuquerella to the role of technical director with immediate effect.
Willis left the team in September 2011 concerned - rightly as it turns out - that there was little in the way of budget for development - and the decision was made for HRT's current F112 to be built at its technical office in Munich in the hands of the Holzer Group and chief of aerodynamics Stephane Chosse, under the supervision of technical co-ordinator Jacky Eeckelaert.
"Toni Cuquerella has been a key figure in the team since its inception and, above all, in this new stage," team principal Luis Pérez-Sala pointed out, "The transition from the previous project to this one hasn't been easy and a lot of work has been carried out that without vital figures such as him wouldn't have been possible. The position of technical director was vacant and the development of the F112 was carried out at the technical office in Munich. But now, with the car already on the track, it was important to take control and count on someone influential at the head of the technical office. And because of his experience, judgment and knowledge, Toni's profile fitted in perfectly.”
When Eeckelaert left in February, the team soldiered on the opening rounds of the 2012 season, missing all three group tests but finally getting its new car out for a shakedown run prior to being shipped to Melbourne - where it promptly failed to make the 107 per cent time needed to qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. With the addition of KERS and a working DRS system, however, both Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa made the field for the Malaysian GP last weekend.
Cuquerella's appointment is another step in the new management's desire to centralise and take control of all the activities related to the design and development of the car. His background includes spells as a race engineer for Campos GP in the World Series by Nissan and chief engineer of the Toledo WTCC and Leon WTCC projects at SEAT Sport. He first appeared in F1 in 2006, when he worked as a race engineer at Super Aguri F1, before moving on to BMW Sauber in 2008, acting in the same role with Robert Kubica.
Towards the end of 2009, however, the Spaniard took the risk of backing former employer Adrián Campos in a project to establish a new Spanish team in the top flight, becoming chief race engineer for Campos Meta. Since the team's first season, Cuquerella has been chief race and test engineer as the squad morphed through its Hispania and HRT phases, and was a key figure even before he assumed his new position.
Besides now being at the head of technical development, he will continue to exercise his role as the head of engineering at the track as the season continues with back-to-back visits to China and Bahrain in the next three weeks, ensuring a degree of coordination between the different departments by helping to meet set targets and rationalise resources.
"The role of technical director implies a great amount of responsibility in terms of coordination and decision-making, and that's why I'm very proud that the management considers me to be the most adequate person to carry it out," Cuquerella commented, "Until now, there was a lot of dispersion from within the technical team and that had its repercussions in the concept and quality of the F112. My priority is to solve the current car's problems, and then develop it to its maximum potential, whilst also unifying and expanding the technical department. I'm confident that we have a good work base and a clear direction to advance and have a good project for the future.”