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HRT fills technical director void from within
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Toni Cuquerella - HRT F1 image
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Apr 2012   |  1:39 pm GMT  |  15 comments

The HRT team has finally filled the void left by Geoff Willis following the Briton’s departure to Mercedes towards the end of last year by promoting chief race and test engineer Toni Cuquerella to the role of technical director.

Cuquerella has been with the team since its turbulent early days as Campos in late 2009, the 38-year-old Spaniard having previously worked in F1 circles as a race engineer at Super Aguri before joining BMW Sauber, where he was engineer to Robert Kubica.

Under his new role he will continue to lead the team’s engineering direction at the race track, but with the wider remit also be charged with overseeing a programme of improvements for the F112 as the team look to centralise design and development after the 2012 challenger was put together by the German Holzer Engineering firm in Munich and the team’s chief of aerodynamics Stephane Chosse under the supervision of Jacky Eeckelaert.

Cuquerella said of his new position and his initial remit: “The role of Technical Director implies a great amount of responsibility in terms of coordination and decision making. That’s why I’m very proud that the management considers me to be the most adequate person to carry it out.

“Until now there was a lot of dispersion from within the technical team and that had its repercussions in the concept and quality of the F112. My priority is to solve the current car’s problems to then develop it to its maximum potential, whilst also unifying and expanding the technical department, but I’m confident that we have a good work base and a clear direction to advance and have a good project for the future.”

Since the team’s second takeover by Thesan Capital mid-way through last year the new ownership has sought to create a clearer Spanish identity at the squad, with Luis-Perez Sala taking over from Colin Kolles as team principal, the veteran Pedro de la Rosa being hired to drive alongside Narain Karthikeyan and the move to new headquarters in Madrid underway. The latest reorganisation again heavily compromised the team’s pre-season efforts and, after conducting just a brief shakedown with the F112, failed to qualify first time out in Australia, before making the 107% cut in Malaysia.

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15 Comments
  1. DB4Tim says:

    The biggest thing a new team needs is stability…they sure are having a tough go of it.

  2. Daniel Hoyes says:

    Motivation must be so hard in a team like that with little money, uncertain ownership and the worst driver pairing F1 has seen for some time. No wonder it’s hard to attract potential technical directors from other teams.

    They could do well to look at Minardi; yes underfunded as well – but they were passionate about what they did and had a certain amount of respect from fans even though they were often at the back. I think giving HRT a greater Spanish identity will boost moral in a similar way, but you can’t help feeling their survival is still under threat.

    1. Natthulal says:

      Gianmaria Bruni, Zsolt Baumgartner, Christijan Albers, Patrick Friesache, Robert Doornbos must be really inspiring drivers by your logic, inspired the Minardi team members to go that extra mile for Bruni or Friesacher I guess.

      The drivers are not that bad for you to paint them “Worst pair” in one broad brush.

      As long as Management has vision and commitment to put in appropriate resources for continuous development of the car, the drivers are mere 20% of the whole puzzle.

      My point is Narain or Pedro will deliver at same levels as a Perez/Kamui if HRT Management was operating at Sauber’s level.

      1. Peter Scandlyn says:

        cough…cough

      2. zombie says:

        It is the car and not the drivers. Kartikeyan, for all the bricks thrown at him has performed on par with Bruno and is inches ahead of Pedro, who let us not forget was a former Mclaren driver. If HRT can come up with a good car, i don’t see any reason why the current HRT drivers cannot compete with mid-grid teams. But if they continue to come up with cars that are 4/5 seconds/lap slower than the top teams, then even a Vettel in it is not going to make it go much faster.

  3. Rich C says:

    Yeah, Karthikeyan really boosts that Spanish identity!

  4. Daniel Hoyes says:

    Granted, worst pairing is a very subjective statement to make, but I really think Perez/Kobayashi would get more out of the car.

    Remember there was Trulli, Alonso, Webber etc to add to your list, but it was probably more their identity (combination of Italian passion for racing, and love of being the underdogs) that got them through, then sell when right opportunity comes along. Just saying I think there is a template there for HRT.

    1. Natthulal says:

      Very true, I do remember the stellar performance from Webber in Minardi, qualifying back of the grid and surviving a race where the front half took itself out and others had reliability issues for Webber to finish the Minardi in points.

      Same goes for Zsolt who qualified at back of the grid and managed to avoid Turn 1 carnage that finished race of half the grid in 2004.

      Wish the reliabilities of the F1 cars were at same levels as in 80s, 90s and early 00s. Cars not making to checkered flag thus allowing backmarkers some hope of finishing in points. Those were the days. If not for FIA/Mosley and all the cost saving measures that has made F1 cars reliable since 2005, one variable (and hope for Minardi like backmarkers) is not in game anymore.

      Of course neither is Flavio who used to run his clients in the backmarker teams as stop gap arrangement, while he was cutting deals for them (and himself) in the front running teams. So all the Webbers and Alonso’s and their lack of performance in back markers had no bearing on their future progress in F1 ( Riciardo is good example of that model though, if he not dumped by RedBull machine in 2 yrs).

    2. Natthulal says:

      Kamui/Sergio/Lewis/Fernando/Sebastian/Michael getting more out of HRT isn’t that a subjective statement as well.

      We are talking F1 here 80% car 20% driver

      1. Ron W says:

        Are you joking?!

        Today, F1 is 97% car and 3% driver.

        And that is being generous to the Driver.

  5. Victor says:

    Engineering direction at all races plus overseeing new development at the factory – is it not too much to do and remain focused?

  6. Chris says:

    Good article James. Nice to see someone new getting a chance, shame it’s at a team with so much work to do. Teams like this should be a breeding ground for future F1 stars, whether that be drivers or engineers. Hope he lays out some makeable goals, like improve the car and make pre-season testing next year. This should ensure they finally make the first grid of the season to!!

  7. alexyoong says:

    HRT do not particularly inspire, but they have beaten Virgin two years in a row, and had a good enough showing in Malaysia.

    The difference to Minardi is that they are racing in a time when they are directly competing against two teams- Marussia and Caterham. Therefore bigger constructors placings are up for grabs, and therefore at the moment, it makes just enough sense. If they grid turns back into ten teams out of the reach of one, then you are back to the Minardi days.

    Even then, for the sheer passion of it, it made sense.

    On that note, where was Karthikeyan when Malaysia was red flagged? I seem to remember well up the grid. If, as in 2009, it had stopped there, that would have been a great result. Good placings on rainy days is what makes these sorts of teams viable.

    Against that: a shame reliability is so much better these. days. Minardi’s bullet proof two year old engine tactics are redundant.

  8. Ross says:

    Good luck to HRT. It has been a tough few years for them but I am all in favor of having more teams in F1. They are certainly much better than the likes of Forti and Pacific and I am sure quite a few other back markers before my time.

    So far they have given Senna Riccardio and Chandhok a chance to display there various levels of talent. In an era where experience trumps youth it is important there are teams on the grid who give new drivers a chance.

    Even more impressive is that they dont claim to have a car that is going to be challenging the midfield every season nor have been caught up in legal scandals like a certain other team who despite having a much bigger budget have scored the same amount of points as HRT. Yet never seen to get any flack.

  9. Force_indy says:

    Good luck to HRT, i dont understand fans slagging them off so easliy! someone has to be last and they have had several difficult years. with new management hopefully they can establish themselves for the coming season. money in f1 is limited as sponsorship is not widely available as it use to be. its a much tougher f1 than when minardi was about so i think comparing them to minardi is not fair.

    Being a Jordan,midland,Spyker,and Force India fan i’ve been through the highes and lows!! so i always have a soft sport for these new small teams as my team were in a smilar position.

    they have done ok beating Virgin, which again hope they become better as well. the clear sign of how difficult f1 is, is by looking at lotus /cateram. they have had no money issues and have a fanastic development team but after 3 years they are still 1 sec off the midfield and 1 sec ahead of the virgins, HRT. Its Tough but resepct that virgin and HRT are hanging in as im sure they are money losing teams..

    hopefully they get established and more new f1 teams appears. the more the better!!!

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