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HRT - Cheap to a good home

NEWS STORY
14/11/2012

Mat Coch writes:

HRT is looking for new investment. The team, once owned by the Carabante family was purchased for an undisclosed amount by Thesan Capital during the 2011 season. Thesan breathed new life in to HRT, re-branding the outfit while trying to distance itself from the past and bringing in staff with racing experience, something it was lacking previously.

The new owners installed Luis Perez-Sala, a former Minardi driver, as Team Principal. In March he told Pitpass that his primary focus was to ensure the team's stability long term, simplifying and centralising its operations. HRT was a three-year plan for Thesan, Perez-Sala claimed, and that it was secure for 2012 at the very least.

Its new Madrid facility (above) was opened to much fanfare. The team circulated photos of Jean Todt being guided around as if somehow the presence of the FIA President legitimised the team's ambitions. Perhaps it did, but that ambition counts for nothing without the financial backing to sustain it. Thesan Capital, Perez-Sala wanted us to believe, provided that previously missing link.

However it was inevitable that the team's future was be cast in shadow. Thesan Capital is in the finance business and is only interested in a return on investment. It is not a racing entity prepared to throw good money after bad in pursuit of success. It's a point we raised with both Perez-Sala and the team's PR head Maria Serrat who dodged the question as best they could.

"They want to grow something viable," Perez-Sala explained of Thesan's strategy. "They want to grow something with a balance between income and expense... They know that it is not going to be easy.

"It is a risk," he continued, "but they knew it's a risk. They can lose but this is something they have in their mind."

And it seems now that Thesan could well lose that investment as its hand appears forced. While the investment company is the public owner of the team its actual owners are Banco Popular. As Spain's largest bank, Banco Popular currently finds itself at the mercy of the European Union, in need of assistance if it is to survive, and consequently HRT finds itself on the market for sale to the highest bidder.

The question is, given it has failed to score a single point in its three year history, who is likely to be interested in a team based outside of Formula One's heartland? Moreover, at a time of financial uncertainty, not to mention the forthcoming regulation changes for 2014, is anyone going to be interested in buying a back of the grid Formula One team?

According to reports the team must answer these questions in order to find a new suitor by early December. The Formula One season winds up in a little under two weeks and there appears a distinct possibility HRT may do the same not long after.

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