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Perez-Sala: I couldn’t be more positive

10 August 2012

Luis Perez-Sala insists that he is satisfied with the way his first eight months in the role of team principal at HRT have gone, despite the Spanish team still being firmly rooted to the back of the F1 grid.

The former Minardi driver was a somewhat surprising nomination for the job after Thesan Capital acquired the team from Jose Carabante midway through 2011, and admits that he was horrified with what he saw when he first attended a race [see story here], but has systematically set about reviewing every element of the operation in a bid to make it a credible member of the F1 fraternity.

Having lured Pedro de la Rosa away from a comfortable position as McLaren test driver to be the first part of a Spanish makeover of the squad, Perez-Sala has since overseen a move to Madrid's iconic Caja Magica, which replaced Valencia as the team's new base and pulled together a previously disparate operation that had been scattered across Europe under Colin Kolles' stewardship. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard feels content with what he has achieved.

"My assessment couldn't be more positive," he emphasised, "Our start to the season was complicated. As we've already said on multiple occasions, we've almost changed the entire team, we've moved to a new headquarters, where we've been based since early April, and all of this whilst we built a new car.

"It was a very ambitious challenge, but we've made it with very limited resources. Once we settled in, from April and May onwards, we started to get a race rhythm going. It's safe to say we've encountered some very intense months where the team has given its all, because we've been able to carry out everything we set out to do. I came with an open mind and ready to tackle anything that was thrown at me, [and] we have accomplished the targets we set ourselves, which were none other than to carry out the great structural change which we've done and start to have the necessary stability to be able to grow.

"This is a target that seems modest but it has implied a radical change. Towards the end of 2011, the decision was made to move the headquarters to Spain, create a new car and have an initial standard that would enable us to be within the 107 per cent comfortably, to then grow from there. And we have achieved all of that, so we can say that we've accomplished our objectives. Now we must set ourselves new ones."

Despite operating on a smaller budget than its rivals, even those with which it is directly competing - a recent report claimed that HRT's financial clout was only 50 per cent that of fellow 2010 start-up Caterham - Perez-Sala still has ambitions for his team, although he is aware that growth can only happen gradually.

"From here, the most important and complicated challenge is to continue growing in the right direction, optimising our resources, and getting the car to perform better," he revealed, "This is the hardest thing because, whilst other teams have a consolidated structure, we're still in a transition period. In that sense, they've also got an advantage over us.

"Because we have limited human and economic resources, that means that the upgrade plan has to be very clear and whatever we introduce will result in an important difference. It really has to represent a step forwards. The most complicated thing now is to not be dropped off by the other teams whilst we finish defining our own team and evolve and prepare the future."

The Spaniard is confident that gains can be made too, with potential still to be unlocked from the F112 and its first major upgrade still to come.

"I think that, overall, the F112 is a car that has given quite a good result, keeping in mind how it started," he noted, "Last winter, I had a lot of doubts, because the car was handed to us and we didn't have enough time to review it. The proceedings and deadlines weren't the usual ones and that forced us to go quicker to make up for lost time and organise the different parties implicated in the project to make it on time.


"We have some upgrades prepared for the Singapore Grand Prix. As a small team we can't afford small upgrades every two or three races because the cost of an upgrade or creating a new piece for a small upgrade is very high. Besides the aerodynamic study, you have to produce the parts and that also implies a lot of time. So we have to make the most of any changes and have a very clear idea of the direction we want to take for those upgrades to be productive.

"But, even with all these obstacles, the car has given good results. It has a good base and that's its biggest strength. It's a reliable car with good mechanical resistance and it offers a lot of possibilities for its development. I'd say we're at 50 per cent of its potential and we can still extract another 50 per cent, mainly in aerodynamics.

"For me, it would be a success to maintain the reliability we have and improve our performance a little bit more. To achieve this, I hope that the aero package that we will introduce after the summer will help us to take the next step. The objective is to stay between the 104 and 105 per cent and have the project for 2013 prepared. If we achieve all of this, I'd be satisfied."


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