Collapse of Qatar talks led to HRT situation
17 November 2012
HRT's perilous situation, which speculation insists could lead to the team closing its doors within 24 hours of the chequered flag falling in Brazil, was apparently prompted by the end of negotiations with a Qatari group that had shown interest in acquiring the backmarker.
That is the claim of one team insider, as it emerged that the Spanish outfit had already begun to issue redundancy notices to sections of its workforce that it no longer considered essential to see out the remainder of the 2012 season.
"I can not say who it is," the source told Spanish sports newspaper Marca, "It seemed that it was all done, they were interested and had money. Then it was delayed and, right before the notary was to be signed, in the week of [the] Abu Dhabi [GP], they backed out.".
According to the report, the team's premises in Madrid's Caja Magica - a much hyped location that trumped possible relocation to Valencia in the summer - have already been stripped back to the bare necessities, surprising those who returned home between the races in Abu Dhabi and the USA.
"The offices were already empty, there was no furniture or computers or anything, just the windows," one mechanic reported, while another confirmed that just days before the announcement that HRT was for sale, they had still be working on next year's car. As recently as two races ago, team principal Luis Perez Sala reported that work was underway on an all-new car for 2013, with the team still hiring new members of staff, but as obviously stunned employees insisted, owner Thesan Capital appears to have grown tired of propping up the slowest cars in the field.
"[HRT] is not closing due to lack of liquidity, or because it has outstanding payments to suppliers or [regarding] the FIA enrolment for next year," one insisted, "Thesan simply decided that [being involved in F1] is no longer profitable, or will not be next year, and wants to get rid of HRT. [The team] is a trivial matter for global business investors. It doesn't matter whether it's good or bad publicity as long as they present some acceptable returns to those who have deposited money in them. They are already not interested in F1."
While many employees have already been told to report to the unemployment office, the 60 or so staff present with the team in Austin may only have a week or so left in HRT uniforms.
"Thesan have told us that we cannot comment on anything, but we want [the world] to know that we're all unemployed," one commented, "We want you to know that we are available for anyone. There are 20 [people in the] design, marketing, media, administration and other departments. Curiously, two of them - a simulation engineer from McLaren GT and one from Marussia - have only been to the office for five days. We were working on the car for next year, [so this] has caught us all by surprise. We have been informed that, on 26 November, we will also be [unemployed]. If we are here, it is only because [the team] had signed contracts with the FIA and [Bernie] Ecclestone's FOM that forced them to [attend] events."
The likelihood is that, despite being put up for sale, HRT will simply be allowed to fade away, as the clock ticks against anyone wanting to make a concerted effort to be on the grid next season.
"They get offers, but many with no real interest," another unnamed source told the report, "I think 2013 will have only 22 cars. It is true that someone could come and take the team for a reduced price, but time is against them. Design of the 2013 car has been stopped and that's the most important thing. They have to put two cars on the grid and, if [the delay] lengthens over a month in time, that possibility will be gone for anyone who wants to buy [the team]. Having a license [to race] is what counts, but it means nothing if there is no car."
To make matters worse for HRT, the team could only run a limited programme in Friday free practice at the Circuit of the Americas, and faces the real possibility - despite positive platitudes in the day one press release - of not making the 107 per cent cut in qualifying on Saturday afternoon.