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HRT continue Spanish makeover with Dani Clos signing
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Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Feb 2012   |  4:31 pm GMT  |  64 comments

HRT today took a further step in the process of restyling themselves as Spain’s effective national team by hiring GP2 driver Dani Clos as their test and Friday driver for the new season.

Since the second takeover in the squad’s short history by Madrid-based private investment firm Thesan Capital last summer, the new owners have made no secret of their aim to give the team a more authentic Spanish flavour and a number of their key appointments in recent months have clearly reflected that.

Veteran driver Pedro de la Rosa has been signed to lead the team’s attempted on-track progression over the next two seasons while former Minardi driver Luis Perez-Sala has assumed the role of team principal, taking over from Colin Kolles who steered the team through an often rocky first two years of existence.

In a bid to put the team on a surer footing going forward, the owners also last week confirmed that rather than setting up a permanent base in Valencia, as was originally expected, they had secured 11,000 square metres of space in Madrid’s impressive Caja Magica complex – which is also the venue for the city’s annual ATP Masters tennis tournament.

The idea is, for the first time, to have all of the team’s departments working under one roof, with the team expecting the new venue to be fully operational by May and the design office to begin their move into the facility the following month.

Although India’s Narain Karthikeyan returns for a second season with the team as a race driver, it was little surprise today to see HRT name another local driver, in the form of Barcelona-born Clos, as their third driver for 2012.

The 23-year-old has driven in the GP2 Series since 2009, winning at Istanbul Park in 2010 when he also finished a career-best fourth overall in the standings for Racing Engineering. He tested for Williams in 2008 and was one of HRT’s drivers in last November’s young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

HRT has been one of several teams to run their test drivers in Friday practice sessions since making their debut in the sport and Clos has been promised “several” appearances in place of one of the race drivers during first practice during the course of the season.

Pérez-Sala says one of the aims of the restructured team is to hand opportunities to up and coming talents like Clos: “I’m very happy to have Dani on the team. He’s a quick, talented driver who, above all, is very willing to progress. The incorporation of Clos is another step in our project of restructuring HRT but also fits in with our desire to promote young motorsport talents. I’m sure that it will be a very positive experience for both parties.”

Clos himself was naturally thriled to be given his F1 break, adding that he has already seen signs of progress at HRT in recent months. “I’m very proud to be a part of HRT Formula 1 Team. It is a great step in my career, something that I have dreamt of all my life and, finally, my dream is starting to come true,” he said.

“I’m very impressed with the job the team is doing; they’re achieving fantastic things in a short space of time. The team has changed a lot since we met in the Abu Dhabi tests and I think it’s a great opportunity and an honor to form a part of this new team. What they’re achieving is very important for motorsport in our country and has a lot of potential. Also, being alongside Pedro de la Rosa is very important for me, since he and Karthikeyan can positively contribute to me becoming a better driver.”

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  1. William says:

    This is a silly idea. I can understand the idea behind a National team, but to just try and make it a fully Spanish team isn’t the best idea.

    Of course, Ferrari have the tifosi, but the drivers aren’t Italian, and at the minute, the lead designer (I think), Pat Fry, is a little bit British.

    It makes sense to follow the team that is from your country, and the driver, but really, you only do that when they are winning.

    The exception of that rule seems to be Caterham, who everyone seems to like. Possibly because Heikki Kovalainen seems like the most likeable man alive.

    1. Kevin Green says:

      To be fair though taking that approach is probably there best hope commercially for sponsors and to get people buying Merchandise and survive.

      Will it work?? long term i don’t think so i give them another 3 full season’s from now max and there either folded or bought over for say a manufacturer fast tracking there way back in.

      1. Graham Coles says:

        Well, they are owned by an investment co, so the plan has to be pretend to be serious, polish-the-poo until it looks half decent, then sell it on before they incur real cost.

        To look convincing these days you just need to get a car under construction, lease (not buy or build) a shiny facility (not even necessary to kit it out completely), employ some management ‘names’ – not even from management but with a relatively recent link to F1/Sports, ditto for a co-ordinating engineer – sub the rest out, and good PR.
        A new ‘logo’ might help – just to show that you really mean business.

  2. Parisian Bob says:

    Long live JA on F1. Best racing blog on the web.

  3. Chris says:

    Hopefully they’ll find some top talent recruiting in Spain for their design and aero department. I’m sure with the Alonso aspect and 2 F1 races a year, in a few years time this team could start challenging the midfield. But they need to follow Force Indias example and look for talented drivers, and not Spanish drivers just for the sake of it (meaning De La Rosa, not Clos)

    Who knows, maybe a deal with Seat for rebadged VW power plants?

    1. anonymous says:

      This speculation is so much of this world, that I can hardly believe it is meant seriously. First I can’t see a team like that anywhere near the mid field. They have fired almost everyone running the team and designing the car, their owner has changed three times in three years from Campos to Carabante to Thesan Capital, they are about to move the fourth time in three years (from Campos’ HQ to Greding, to the infamous fashion store to some kind of stadium), their technical staff changed from Dallara to Kolles’ people to who-is-there-employed-at-the-moment? They are in deep financal trouble, their new car is nowhere ready, so they will begin the season with a modified three year old car, if there’s no big surprise and still I don’t see any sponsor on the horizon and you honestly think an unorganized, unsteady bunch like the actual team lead, that has no backgrund in Formula 1 management whatsoever, taht is on a budget diet could close up to the mid field? Even Caterham could not do that and they have sufficient funding experienced and proven Formula-1 experts like Gascoyne and experienced, world class drivers.
      And as sugar icing on top of that, you honestly believe that VW would risc to associate any of their marks with a complete mess like that? Man, what did you drink? Honestly, wake up from your delirium!

      1. Graham Coles says:

        You forgot to mention that their car has just failed its second crash test yesterday.

        Not likely to do much at Montmelo next week.

      2. Graham Coles says:

        Actually – not likely to do much next year let alone next week.

        The one missing resource that Chris omitted is money.

        You could put Adrian Newey in a posh shed with 2 bits of wood and a ball of string and tell him to build an Americas Cup contender – All the ideas will be there but without cash it just aint happening.

        And lets faceit, Spain isn’t the first port of call for cash these days.

        Slim would have been great, but he’s taken already.

        Doomed for the auction block I’m afraid. But we will have the entertainment of watching a few months of painful humiliation beforehand.

  4. gonzeche says:

    As a Spanyard I do not at all appreciate HRT’s effort to be seen as ‘Spain’s effective national team’ nor do I feel represented by it. In so far I dislike when it is labeled as such.
    In Spain there is no pure interest in F1 as such, there never was. It was only the emergence out of nowhere of a talent such as Alonso – actually him winning championships – that triggered, boosted and ultimately justifies any interest in F1 in Spain. No Alonso no F1. Sad but simple as that. Unfortunately HRT is just a domestic PR-triggered effort to jump on to the wave, quite pathetic for it tries to build up a fan base by appealing to national feelings in a way that never played a role front in F1.

    1. Jon W says:

      Although the economy in Spain is difficult at the moment, perhaps the idea of a ‘National Team’ has better resonance with sponsors than fans. They would surely imagine a lot of local TV coverage in comparison to other back of the grid teams (no disrespect intended or implied) which might be encouraging for potential investors.

      I understand your sentiments gonzeche, but perhaps would you feel different if the team were expected to run at the front rather than the back of the grid?

      1. Graham Coles says:

        It also has the sentiments of a team limiting itself to a small talent pool.

        I think the key word in your note JonW is ‘imagine’.

        Nobody in their right commercial mind these days says ‘we’re British (Belgian, American whatever) we’re proud of that and here we come’.
        No one cares. The only question is – are you any good and what are you gonna do for me?

        The concept of the plucky countryman taking on the world and winning is (maybe unfortunately) a teary eyed dream from yesteryear.

        It also does look a bit parrochial these days don’t you think.

    2. JohnBt says:

      …..F1 in Spain. No Alonso no F1.

      Agree with you, but sure hope Alonso will not be the one and only Spanish WDC.

    3. Al says:

      It is sad, but you are spot on with this analysis, the support in Spain for F1 is really all about Alonso winning, the kids here grow up with bike racers photos on their walls.

    4. Athlander says:

      I live in Spain with my fiancée. She’s a big MotoGP fan and I’m a Formula 1 fan and we follow both series very closely. It’s noticeable that here in Spain it’s a lot easier to find in-depth coverage of MotoGP than Formula 1. Formula 1 coverage here reminds me a lot of WRC coverage in the UK. In Spain, the focus is on Alonso – HRT barely registers. Furthermore, while Alonso isn’t winning or involved in a controversy of some sort, Formula 1 is side-news.

      Before attempting to gain support from a national base, HRT should be working on building support from within the existing Formula 1 fanbase. They aren’t going to do that by alienating non-Spanish F1 fans. From a national perspective, HRT are up against football, basketball and MotoGP – as well as some big names in tennis and cycling.

      From a national perspective, what’s more attractive to the casual or new viewer: Alonso in a Ferrari mixing it with Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and Button, or Pedro de la Rosa getting blue-flagged to let these drivers past?

      On the wisdom of trying to have a team with a strong national flavour – if Ferrari couldn’t make it work, I doubt HRT could.

      If a team isn’t winning, it’s hard to generate a fanbase. Minardi under Stoddart played the underdog card and Jordan tapped into the “fun” feeling. It also helped that Jordan were an (upper)midfield team that could sometimes take the fight to the top teams.

      In terms of publicity, the stories surrounding HRT seem to be negative or uninteresting. The signing of Pedro de la Rosa was a good decision but not exciting. I’m happy for Karthikeyan but the big TATA logo on the HRT website reveals the true motive for his signing. What sort of signal does that send to these potential HRT fans? Unlike some countries, Spain isn’t a nation with an underdog fetish.

      All of which seems to sum up HRT – a team which appears as if it doesn’t know what it’s doing.

      1. zorritos says:

        i do not agree. You have to give them time. De la rosa, even though we all know he is not the best driver in the world, can help to put the team on the right track, he is well recognized and liked in spain, and he can develop an f1 car. The other two drivers can bring the needed cash. The fans have to understand that a big budget is needed to create a f1 team. To me they are doing things better than expected.

      2. Athlander says:

        Will the harsh realities of Formula 1 and business give them time though?
        HRT need to educate casual and new fans about how much of an achievement it is for them to even be present in F1 but generally the Spanish are only interested in winners – Nadal, Contador, Alonso, Lorenzo, Real Madrid, Barça etc. When I was at the Valencia grand prix last year, I was sitting amongst Spanish fans cheering for Alonso and shouting angrily at Alguersauri to go faster (not understanding that he can only go as fast as his car) – and these are the people HRT need to attract.

        Another point is that a big budget is only one component. It’s a vital component, but big budgets didn’t help Toyota and didn’t establish any consistency for Honda or BMW.

        Spain is going through a golden period of sporting success and I’m just questioning the wisdom of HRT vying for partiotic attention at such a time.

      3. The thing is, the fans *don’t* have to understand that at all. Most casual fans probably don’t know or care about budget issues with teams. They just see a slow team at the back of the grid.

        It’s up to HRT to make the fans care about the team, in some way or another. They certainly can’t rely on fans understanding their budgeting issues!

      4. anonymous says:

        Better than expected? What did you expect then? I think that both HRT and Virgin were doing worse than expected. Caterham is just right where you would expect a professional effort after two years of this insanity that we call Formula-1-development. Virgin have made an odd decision by getting rid of Wirth Research before having an alternative in place, but HRT is probably the most unprofessional team that entered Formula-1 since Andrea Moda. Not even Simtek or Forti Corse have been a mess like that and even Pacific seemed to be better organized.

      5. Graham Coles says:

        Very good analysis and well said Athlander.

      6. Graham Coles says:

        I’m afraid the whole HRT thing reeks of polishing up for sale.

        Best way to make some money out of them sooner rather than later.

    5. Chris says:

      No team can come in and just dominate!! You’ve got to give them a chance!! If Spain got behind the team, no reason why it could challenge the midfield!! Progress was made last year as HRT took the fight to Virgin!!

      1. Chris says:

        Plus, where’s the next Alonso coming from, this team could find him!!

    6. Galapago555 says:

      Fed up with this “no interest on F1 in Spain” mantra.

      I’m a Spaniard as well. I’m delighted with the idea of having a Spanish team, and I can understand that they desperately look for sponsors trying to use that “first ever Spanish Team on F1″ motto.

      Obviously MotoGP was [in fact it still IS] much more popular than F1 in Spain before Alonso. But maybe the things will change, and if so, it will be thanks to Fernando, Jaime, Pedro de la Rosa, Marc Gené,Dani Clos and, yes, thanks to HRT. All efforts are welcome.

      By the way, no one had ever heard in Spain any thing before Ángel Nieto first successes in the late 60s. We could say the same about Tennis before Santana and Orantes, or Golf before Seve Ballesteros. All of them are quite popular sports nowadays in Spain.

      So Bienvenidos HRT, Buena Suerte, keep up the good work!

  5. Andy says:

    Mmm, Ligier, Prost. National teams are doomed I’m afraid.

    1. Athlander says:

      Not to mention Ferrari’s ill-fated attempt to be “more Italian” !

    2. APAAPSPASPAAASA says:

      You forgot USF1… although they technically didn’t make it!

      1. Andy says:

        I did forget about USF1, but then again who would class them as an F1 team?. Incompetant – yes, F1 team – no.
        The point is that in order to be successful, you have to employ the best people or the best that you can afford. This will never come from one country though.
        It would be interesting to know what each teams budgets were in 2011, particularly Red Bull. In terms of financial comparison, maybe HRT, Marussia havent performed too badly.

        James, could you obtain some numbers from the teams for comparison?

  6. Alex W says:

    I’d rather see a team USA, and while I’m dreaming, drop Valencia.

  7. Dave B says:

    JA,
    This is probably not the place to ask or the right article to comment on, however I read on another F1 website that Mark Webber has a new Chief Mechanic this year. I was wondering if you could do an article on the key people inivolved in managing a driver and his car for the race/season as well as any changes that have occured in the off season with reguard to engineers, mechanics etc. (And obviously provide your fantastic insights on what this might mean for the season coming).
    Thanks,
    Dave

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll add that to the list. Thanks

  8. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Alguersuari… OLÉ!

  9. Brisbane Bill says:

    A “national” team in F1 – hasn’t that been done already? Aren’t McLaren doing that – British team, British drivers – but not making a big fanfare of that fact? Wasn’t that the whole premise of A1GP and it ultimately proved that it is not a national team that is the draw but the personalities and competition are more important and, the majority of fans and casual viewers, the drivers’ title is way more important than the teams’ title.

    No, this is a blatant attempt at attracting Spanish-sourced sponsorship money. In this economic climate that is probably an unwise move. Alonso winning in a Ferrari is going to do way more to generate Spanish interest than the embarrasing spectacle of their “national” team trolling round at the back of the pack (being overtaken multiple times each race by signor Alonso).

    1. Al says:

      No, McLaren are very not doing that.

      If you remember, before the LewJens era, McLaren tried not to have 2 British drivers as it is bad for Sponsors !

      Several other teams have done the same thing I recall, it is best to have a balance, not focus on one market.

      Jenson almost fell into McLaren’s lap, he was not part of the long term plan. Before Lewis’ precocious debut most people were questioning McLaren’s decision to put a Rookie up against the driver many at the time thought was the best.

      From the first corner of his first race we saw the wisdom of McLaren and the change at the top of the pecking order.

      1. Brent McMaster says:

        “Wisdom of McLaren” must be sarcasm; they lost the 2007 world championship because they decided to put Hamilton in the other seat. It was a stupid decision, they could have had back to back titles with Alonso.

      2. Kevin Green says:

        Agree totally and how many could there have been since?? I think with Alonso at Mclaren and winning to this day still and not just the near certain 07/08 it would have hugely influenced who else came to the team and who left or not.

      3. Kevin Green says:

        And on that that has got me thinking, long contract or not, theres talk about virtually every driver and where they might land up in the future etc, But very little on Alonso and where he would land up cant see him leaving Ferrari But if this seasons car does turn out to be a complete dud (which im pretty sure it wont) Reckon he is offski!

        I think he is the one driver that Red Bull would not give a poop about upsetting Vettel with if that possibly came up on the cards!

      4. Spinodontosaurus says:

        In hindsight, it probably wasnt the best idea yes. But at the time, I dont think Mclaren expected Hamilton to match, never mind beat Alonso on countback.

      5. @Kevin Green

        …where would he go?

  10. Matt says:

    Trying to make a national team in a very expensive sport in a country where the F1 culture is Alonso-centric (i.e. largely glory supporters), and unemployment is 20% looks like a very bad idea.

    1. gonzeche says:

      25%, current unemployemnt rate in Spain is 25%! All together the labour force in Spain is about 20 million of wich 5 million can’t find a job. It looks really bad here. There is one million houselds in which no one of its members has any income at all and 50% of the population aged under 26 are still looking for their very first job….
      With local and central governments in Spain daily announcing new reductions of education, health and social services to save costs, it is only a matter of (very short) time that the expenses of both GPs in Spain become under social pressure unless….. Alonso saves us all!

      are being cut and people fired to reduce

  11. gudien says:

    This brings into question why Pedro de la Rosa would leave McLaren to attempt this. Perhaps weary of the English weather? A chance to go home in his remaining years in the sport?

    This is truly an ambitious undertaking. Good luck to all at HRT!

    1. Z says:

      Simply because he wants to race. No chance of that at McLaren unless Jenson or Lewis are out sick or injured.

  12. Hendo says:

    They might sell a few red & yellow T shirts but they would be better off getting the best people (drivers & team) that they can afford – because with success comes the fans, which brings the sponsors, which brings more success etc etc.

  13. F430-Fox says:

    So Dani Clos is the reserve driver to drive what exactly? Do HRT have an actual car to go racing (they seem to have a habit of skipping testing)?

    He must be really desperate to get into F1. Wonder what he thinks he can show to the other teams to impress them. Maybe his patience?

    Sorry for being cynical, but it is difficult to take this team serious. I supported them for the first 2 years, but they have learnt nothing in this time. Even worse, they went backwards.

  14. Kedar says:

    Cant they rather have him as the race driver?
    Karthikeyan is not going to win a WDC in this car with this team anyway!

    1. Rob Newman says:

      Do you think Karthikeyan will win a WDC in any other car with any other team? LOL!

      1. Kedar says:

        My point exactly :)

  15. Rob Newman says:

    How can you take this team seriously? Just look at their driver line up. That sums up everything.

    I am just wondering what their agenda in F1 is.

  16. ian says:

    Is there any particular reason why ‘Hispania’ are always referred to as ‘HRT’ and yet Red Bull are rarely referred to as ‘RBR’ ?

    Surely ‘Hispania’ sounds better ?

    1. James Allen says:

      They rebranded themselves as HRT

      1. Athlander says:

        A strange decision: “Hispania” has more Spanish resonance than “ache erre te”.

  17. Rich C says:

    Good luck to them, I say.
    We all know that most teams are very international, and many say “national” teams are just not on.
    But yet in everyday conversation we refer to them as ‘the Germans’ or ‘the Italians’ or ‘the French’ and so forth.
    And they are all painted some “national” colors.
    So why not?

  18. Dunky says:

    The driver line up shows the team have zero ambition. I wouldn’t even waste column inches on them James.

    This team make Forti, Andrea Moda and Pacific look like world beaters.

    1. James Allen says:

      We have to cover everyone on the grid and reflect what their plans are etc.

      1. Davexxx says:

        …and we appreciate that James. I often wish I had a better memory to retain the history of teams, as when they become successful and ‘big’ it’s fascinating to look back at their humble origins, and I get this ‘why didn’t I pay attention to them in the past and so follow their progress?’ For example, Red Bull came via Jaguar from Jackie Stewart. Did he form it from another team, or from total scratch?

      2. Athlander says:

        Jackie Stewart started it from scratch but it had backing from Ford and they could build on experience from lower categories. Although their first couple of years were poor in terms of reliability, Stewart Grand Prix’s third year was very impressive. It would have been interesting if Newey had joined Jaguar!

    2. Rich C says:

      Disagree.

      They are *miles ahead of those that didn’t get in, dropped out, or never tried. *That list is far longer than the current entry list!

      The people at the back of the grid are as important as all the others.

      Would you watch a Ferrari/McLaren/RBR-only series? Perhaps if you *loved the 2005 USGP with only 6 cars!

  19. ChrisS says:

    If they really want to be known as a Spanish team they should probably rebrand back to Hispania. “HRT” conjures up something quite different.

    However, every other modern F1 team is a global organisation – they seek to employ the best talent from wherever in the world it may be found.

    So identifying itself so strongly with a single country suggests very limited ambition on HRT’s part relative to the other teams and will surely cement their reputation as not being a serious contender.

  20. Kevin Green says:

    Whenever I think of HRT I get disturbing images of very very poor seat Ibiza’s of the 1980′s :/

  21. Max says:

    I believe F1 was followed in Spain by a significant minority well before Alonso. I am surprised James hasn’t stepped up to educate us all. When was the first F1 championship held in Spain? what was the first F1 circuit made? Wasn’t one named Jarrama in Madrid in the 60s or 70s? There is no doubt that Alonso has brought F1 to another level but something significant will survive when he leaves for good. What happened in Germany when Schumi retired the first time? A big chunk of the fan base turned their back to F1…. until…. Vettel showed up. Everything motor always have attracted Spaniards, including WRC, cycling, bikes, motocross, you name it. When Nieto retired after winning so many bikes championships others appeared to fill the void but, most important, a new fan base was born. Thirty years latter Spain has more bike champions than any other nation. No doubt for me, F1 after Alonso will be stronger than before him. Just look at how many Spaniards have competed in GP2 in the last five years. I believe most of the posters are being to hard with HRT. We have Virgin with ten times more resources behind and barely did better than HRT. But of course, they are British ..uhm.. Let’s give HTR some room to grow and show what they can do. Beside footballers, Spain produces fine engineers and scientists, so I tend to think with the right resources they can surprise us all and do well in their own soil. If they do well, we may have a new (or future) generation of F1 engineers in Spain. HRT has struggled in the past because of its lack of funding, but they got in. Look at USF1, that was a shame for the States, the fans and those involved in the project. For once HRT seems to have some direction. Let see how things pan out.

  22. Red5 says:

    Won’t get them off the back of the grid. Have to question where exactly they think they are going.

  23. Dizzy says:

    Don’t really get why so many constantly put HRT down?

    There no further off the pace than Jordan & Minardi were & have managed to qualify for the majority of the races & have finished ahead of Marussia/Virgin in both season they have taken part.

    Nobody had a problem with Minardi been 5-6 seconds off the pace or running the same car 2-3 years in a row, Nobody had an issue with Jordan/Midland/Spyker/Force India been 5-6 seconds off the pace & running the same car for 4-5 years & going through several management changes so why are things so different for HRT?

    There a new team with a tiny budget who given the circumstances are actually doing a fantastic job!

  24. Jeff says:

    I believe that Lotus were the first to race out their car in non-national colours (with their Gold Leaf tobacco Branded 1968 car).

    There are a few other F1 cars sporting national colours. You could argue that Ferrari’s red is really a Marlboro tobacco colour scheme, but Mercedes run in a silver colour scheme harking back to the old Benz cars, The British made Caterhams are British racing green (though I think they are still racing under a Malaysian Flag?), and Force India’s cars are decked out in the Indian Tricolour (but the cars are built in England, so how Indian is that?).

    HRT are building their cars in Spain. There are some who would question the wisdom of siting the factory far from many of the F1 support industries in the UK, but if they are contributing to the Spanish economy, why shouldn’t they claim Spanish nationality? Best of luck to them.

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