José Ramón Carabante – the majority owner of F1 2011 backmarker Hispania Racing (HRT) – has narrowly avoided a jail term after being convicted of fraud, reports in the Spanish media have revealed.
Sports newspaper Marca
claims that Carabante was involved in the sale of land back in the late 1990s, upon which the promised construction of homes never materialised. According to SPEED.com
, the 59-year-old Spanish businessman was a director of the land development company, and as such, charged with signing the contracts and looking after the financial aspects. He was sentenced to three months' imprisonment by a court in Cádiz, but for undisclosed reasons, will reportedly not have to serve time.
Carabante's team is preparing this weekend for its second 'home' outing of the season in the European Grand Prix in Valencia, a race that yielded a two-car finish for the Murcia-based outfit last year, albeit down in 18th and 20th positions.
Team principal Colin Kolles has already conceded that the bulk of efforts are 'very soon' to switch to the 2012 car in a bid to steal an early march on HRT's immediate rivals next year [see separate story – click here
] – with an aerodynamic programme in Mercedes Grand Prix's spare wind tunnel set to get underway next month – but in the meantime, the acquisition of tenth spot in the 2011 constructors' standings remains a clear goal.
“I always enjoy Valencia,” affirmed the German. “Both the city, with its atmosphere, and the track, which is a street circuit, are very special. Valencia is basically our second home grand prix, which is very important for the team. I hope that the team continues improving and can prolong the positive trend.
“It seems that the car is more competitive on tracks with similar characteristics to Valencia. Traction will be very important here; therefore, we have worked in this direction. We will have some new parts on the car, and hope to further reduce the gap to the teams in front of us.”
In taking the chequered flag in an excellent 13th place last time out in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal – ahead of both Virgin Racing entries and Jarno Trulli's Team Lotus – Vitantonio Liuzzi hinted at a genuine step forward for Hispania across the Pond. As the team returns to Europe this weekend, the Italian is palpably fired-up to keep that momentum going.
“The atmosphere of the race in Valencia is fantastic, the crowd is really committed and passionate and the city is beautiful,” he enthused. “It all adds up to one magnificent grand prix! It's always special to race in front of your home crowd and I'm sure it will be a great weekend with a lot of support from our home fans, especially after achieving our best result in Montreal.
“It's a difficult and technical circuit. It's not an easy task to set up the car, and the track is really demanding on the tyres. Overtaking has been difficult previously here, but with the DRS this year it should be much easier. Qualifying will be very important, as always in F1, but with the DRS there will be opportunities to improve on your position.
“We're always moving forward; there's still a long way to go, but we're certainly going in the right direction. We can't sit back now – we want more and we have to push for it. Our targets are quite high, and if we want to achieve them, we can't afford to relax.”
“I like being in Spain because, when the weather is hot, it reminds me of back home in India,” added team-mate Narain Karthikeyan, who has never previously competed around the stop-start Valencia Street Circuit. “The people are also very friendly here, and they know their F1 which is always nice. I certainly hope that the home race advantage helps the team to take their performance to the next level.
“I have never raced in Valencia before, so I don't really know what to expect, but you always need to concentrate 110 per cent because the smallest mistake puts you in the wall. It's not a traditional street circuit, as the roads are quite wide and the average speeds are not as slow as they are in Monaco. Hopefully, with the DRS this year, overtaking should be a possibility during the race.
“It was good to see that the updates worked well in Canada; we have made a big step forward in terms of performance, and our lap times are now much closer to our nearest rivals. We have a lot of work ahead; the step forward in Canada was a very good one, and we need to capitalise on that and keep the momentum going as the season progresses.”