14 April 2012
HRT, Marussia still playing catch-up
Backmarkers HRT and Marussia have both been through the mill since entering F1, but continue to believe that they can make the grade.
The two teams arriving late for the 2012 F1 world championship have admitted that they are unlikely to make up for lost time before the end of the season.
Both HRT and Marussia missed running their new cars in any of the three pre-season group tests, opting instead for brief shakedowns during 'promotional days' before packing up and heading for Melbourne, where the Spanish outfit failed to make the 107 per cent mark and had to sit the race out. Marussia, with its new technical partnership with McLaren in full effect, has got both cars into the two races so far, and with commendable reliability, but continues to trail fellow 2010 newcomer Caterham in the performance stakes.
HRT's cause has not been helped by the departure of team principal Colin Kolles over the winter, and new owner Thesan Capital's decision to instil a new Spanish tone, including the appointment of Pedro de la Rosa and relocating to Madrid, in the first few months of 2012.
"It's clear that we are changing," new team principal Toni Cuquerella acknowledged, "From last year to this year, there has been a big changing hands in the management of the team and we are even relocating to a different country in Europe. Our car has been designed by different clusters around Europe, with not everybody in the same room. Now we are trying to centralise everything and work as a team, which has not been the case in the last two years. The main goal then is that we still need to get organised and that will bring performance and the development we want on the car."
Marussia, of course, has been through a similar process following the split with former designer Nick Wirth, who used CFD to create the team's first two cars. Since then, it has moved its operations into the former Wirth premises in Banbury, moving south from the Dinnington base that is home to progenitor Manor Motorsport.
"I think we're basically in the process where we now have a solid design team and an aerodynamic group that's expanded rapidly over the last six months," the team's Dave Greenwood claimed, "We're in a process now where we're using a wind tunnel on a regular basis, matching that in with the CFD, so if you like we're further along that process. We're still very much at the start of it, but I think it's bringing improvements to the car much better than we've seen before in the previous two years of how we worked.
"Like every team, you have a development programme and ours has been perhaps a little bit delayed in how it started from winter testing. But we've hit the ground running now we're racing and we've brought developments to the last two races and today we ran new developments as well and we're happy with how they're progressing. Aero is the key at the minute and that's what we're working hard on but, [we're working] in lots of areas though, not just finding parts that we think have got more downforce but correlation and understanding flow structures and all that kind of stuff. We're on a steep learning curve."
Cuquerella concedes that, without substantial funding, HRT won't even be able to match its most direct rival in terms of development, as both teams continue to chase aero improvements.
"Of course, we are making some appointments and we are trying to hire more people to reinforce ourselves, but it is not going to be something we expect to be working in two or three months," the Spaniard pointed out, "It's going be, as you say, probably more thinking of next year but some results need to show this year, in the second half of the season.
"From the teams that we are close to in qualifying, especially in our case, the difference is aero. Ninety per cent of our lap time gap to the front row is aero. Of course, there is a difference in aero programmes and budgets, so we just need to get more with less money. It is possible."
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