There is no danger of Hispania Racing (HRT) failing to make the starting grid for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix at the end of the month, insists team owner José Ramón Carabante – with the bullish Spanish businessman even going so far as to stress that the goal remains to beat fellow F1 2010 newcomers Team Lotus and Virgin Racing over the balance of the forthcoming campaign.
Concerns have been raised about HRT's state of readiness for Melbourne following the late arrival of the new F111 and – for the second year in succession – the complete lack of pre-season running from which it will benefit, after a customs issue in Barcelona at the end of last week scuppered the planned testing on Friday afternoon and Saturday [see separate story – click here
That means, once again, that all of the early gremlins will be exposed and will need to be ironed out in the full glare of the world's media in what will be a very public debut indeed. It is not ideal, Carabante concedes, but the Murcia-based outfit's 2011 ambitions nevertheless remain undimmed.
“It is certain that we will be in Australia and will race there,” he told Spanish newspaper El Pais
. “Maybe we will not finish the first race, we'll see, but the car will develop from here with the clear aim of fighting with and beating the other two teams that started last year.”
The budget for the season is rumoured to be in the region of €45 million, with Carabante revealing that 'we are negotiating with several sponsors' amidst suggestions that should none commit to stem the shortfall, the 58-year-old is prepared to do so himself. Meanwhile, chief engineer Toni Cuquerella has sought to explain away the ostensible similarities between the new F111 and 2010's woefully uncompetitive Dallara-designed contender.
“We are relying on last year's chassis,” he explained, “but 95 per cent of the car is new. We have a Cosworth engine with the latest specification, and we have adapted the chassis for the new gearbox and hydraulics supplied to us by Williams. The collaboration with them has allowed us to make a technological step of three years. It is clear that the car is much better than last year's.”
Those sentiments are echoed by F1 returnee Narain Karthikeyan, who moreover has shrugged off accusations that following more than five years away from the grand prix grid and no signs of any great pace during testing with HRT thus far, he will find himself struggling to live with team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2011.
“Many smart people have designed [the F111] and I hope it's good enough to be the best of the three new teams,” the Indian reflected, speaking to Dutch website formule1.nl
. “I did two days [testing] in the rain [in the old F110], and it went very well.
“On a dry track there is still a bit of searching for the limit, but in my new team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi, I have a good reference. My first impression is that our driving styles are quite similar, and that can only be an advantage. Give me a few races, and I have no doubt that I will find the limit.”