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End of the line for HRT?

NEWS STORY
01/12/2012

Mat Coch & Chris Balfe write:

Already in doubt, it seems the fate of HRT has finally been sealed. While official comment has not been made Toni Cuquerella, the team's Technical Director, has given one of the strongest suggestions so far that its future is bleak.

"Four years ago I suggested to a friend to start an F1 team," Cuquerella has tweeted. "Today, after three years, the final page of that story is being written for HRT."

Over the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend it was reported in some corners that drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro de la Rosa were given the choice of racing or not. The team allegedly had concerns over the life of some critical components, most notably the brakes, however both drivers opted to take part in the race regardless.

Once mechanics returned to Spain it was further alleged an incident at the team's Madrid factory resulted in Police being called to the scene. The exact circumstances are unclear however some have suggested mechanics were not permitted to retrieve personal items from the factory without signing a contract termination, to which they allegedly objected.

Speaking at the Brazilian Grand Prix Pedro de la Rosa revealed his concerns over the team's future. "None of us know what will happen, but we have to assume that the team will continue and that we still have to do the best possible job and forget about all this.

"It's easy to say but difficult to do," he admitted. "All I know is that we are here and everyone that is here has not received anything. We are here and we are working until the end. What happens afterwards is unknown, but unknown to everyone. It's not that I know more, or that someone knows about it. I don't think anyone knows at the moment."

The team was unavailable for comment when contacted by Pitpass, though it was confirmed to us last week that "Luis (Perez-Sala) is not giving interviews until the situation (becomes) clear. We don't want to speculate, so we'll wait until the situation (is resolved)."

Calls to the team's Madrid office on Saturday would not connect… the line dead.

HRT was one of three new teams to enter F1 in 2010, attracted by what was supposed to be a new, more cost-effective system that was meant to open up the sport and bring to an end an era of ever increasing spending by the bigger teams and manufacturers that was effectively killing the sport.

Entering as Hispania, a collaboration between, former F1 driver, Adrian Campos of Campos Racing and Enrique Rodriguez of Meta Image, Hispania soon ran into trouble. The proposed budget cap which had enticed the new teams had been thrown out in favour of the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA), which had been put forward by FOTA, but this still didn't help the Spanish team which was in trouble from the very start. Indeed, it subsequently left FOTA, unable to pay its membership dues.

Even before Hispania had taken to the track Bernie Ecclestone voiced concern over its finances, though all the new teams had been thoroughly vetted by the FIA, including the stillborn US F1.

Before its first season had begun Spanish businessman Jose Ramón Carabante had taken control of the team from Campos, who was replaced by former Colin Kolles of Jordan, Midland and Spyker fame. The team was renamed Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT), the new name causing much mirth among sections of the media what with the connotation with treatment for a lack of hormones.

The car, built by Dallara, took to the track for the first time in FP1 for the Bahrain Grand Prix, Bruno Senna completing just three laps. In the second session he completed seventeen laps but was over 11s off the pace. Sadly, this was a portent of what was to follow.

For 2011, Hispania, having parted company with Dallara, opted to build its own car, which, when it appeared in Australia, looked uncannily like the 2010 car, albeit with a different livery. It subsequently emerged that HRT had been in talks to race the car Toyota had built for its 2010 campaign, before leaving the sport, only for the Japanese company to end discussions when the Spanish team failed to make payments.

As the team continued to struggle, in mid-2011 it was announced that Thesan Capital, a Madrid-based investment company, had purchased a controlling stake in HRT from Carabante. The new owners, who immediately parted company with Kolles, revealed that they intended making the outfit "more Spanish".

In November, the team announced that it had signed McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, and that it would be relocating to a new purpose built factory in the Caja Magica complex in Madrid. Also, for the first time, the Spanish outfit would be building its own car.

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