HRT team principal Luis Perez-Sala believes that persuading Pedro de la Rosa to join the struggling backmarker was the biggest boost towards it becoming a credible member of the F1 field.
Speaking to Spain's El Pais
, the former driver admitted that, when he first encountered HRT, he could not believe how disorganised and chaotic the set-up was under Colin Kolles, with various sections of the team scattered between Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK, and having little in the way of co-ordination. Kolles also owned everything, leasing it to the team and taking a cut of every penny that made its way into the operation. Having already changed hands from Adrian Campos to Jose Carabante, the team was again in financial straits, only to be rescued by Thesan Capital, who quickly installed Perez-Sala to oversee its bid for recovery.
The Spaniard, however, was horrified with what he first found.
"What I saw at Silverstone, I did not like - it was a f*cking disaster," the Spaniard admitted, "There was no organisation, no credibility, no home, no identity. Everything was outsourced, each engineer lived in a different place. They said it was a Spanish team, but there was nothing Spanish. There was the paradox already."
Despite his fears, however, Perez-Sala believed that the situation could be turned around with the right hand on the tiller and, along with Thesan's Saul Ruiz de Marcos, set about giving HRT the identity it lacked.
"I liked his idea of a team that was a catalyst for business in our country," the former Minardi pilot revealed, admitting that an 'autopsy' was required on the two-year old squad before either man could put their plan into action, with every trace of Kolles' reign needing to be removed as part of the makeover. While many scoffed, plans to relocate the team in Valencia were canned in place of a move to Madrid's Caja Magica, which Perez-Sala and his cohorts have meticulously transformed from a multi-events venue into a fully-operational F1 base, but the transformation into a Spanish entity came much earlier than that.
"It was clear that Pedro had to be with us," he explained. "He was the key [because] he was Spanish, experienced and honest. He had been in F1 for more than ten years, knew everyone and knew how to develop a car with the engineers. He contributes a lot as a driver, but having him with us also helps us to develop with a plan, rather than just taking shots in the dark. The only problem was that HRT would only pay him half of what he was getting at McLaren."
While with one of the biggest teams in F1, de la Rosa wasn't racing and, despite having reservations of his own about HRT, the lure of competition once again overcame the security of a testing contract.
"HRT had been in F1 for two years and did not yet look like a serious project," the veteran admits, "I had been tempted to join the team before, but I had no trust in it. They had a bad structure that was difficult to change but, when I saw Luis was there, I thought again about it. I was happy at McLaren and did not know Thesan or Saul - or why they wanted to buy HRT, but there were some good arguments for joining - to race again with a Spanish team, Spanish managers, mechanics and engineers.... I liked the idea of being [based in Spain], not in England where the other teams are, and creating something different. It sounded good."
While HRT may have developed off-track its form in terms of results has shown little change since the new management took over, with occasional skirmishes with fellow backmarker Marussia the height of its achievement in 2012. Despite that, Ruiz de Marcos insists that the team can be a viable proposition in as little as three years.