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.”