Rumours started earlier this year that linked the struggling Hispania Racing outfit to a possible technical collaboration with Toyota for the 2011 season appear to have taken a turn south, according to the latest speculation.
The underfinanced outfit had previously appealed to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone for assistance in the wake of splitting its ties with chassis-builder Dallara, who were responsible for the design of the F110 chassis currently used
and not developed by the team.
It was believed that the Murcia-based outfit was close to securing the use of Toyota’s engines, transmission and still-born 2010 chassis for next year – rumoured to be a particularly strong package – but this seems to have gone cold, according to the team’s technical consultant, Jackie Eeckelaert.
“That’s a delicate question to answer,” he said. “It is true there were contacts with Toyota, but I don’t think it’s going to happen for 2011.”
Other rumours had suggested that the outfit might merge with the Epsilon Euskadi group, the aspirant F1 team that unsuccessfully attempted to gain entry to the 2011 championship, but Eeckelaert insisted that he was unaware of such rumours.
The team’s success next year will clearly have to hinge on the use of a third-party chassis supplier, with the HRT outfit having neither the financial nor technical resources to design and construct an entirely new car for 2011.
So, if Toyota is apparently willing and recruiting for a technical tie-in with another F1 team, when which one might that be?
Well, the answer could be in the least-expected corner: Lotus.
With the Malaysian-owned team reportedly set to make “a number of very exciting announcements” at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, which is said to include its driver line-up confirmation, new sponsorship deals and its technical plans for 2011.
And with Lotus having a secured an early release from its contract with current engine supplier Cosworth, the paddock speculation has generally indicated that the outfit would look to examine an engine/transmission supply deal with Renault.
But the Italian-language Autosprint is claiming that Lotus could in fact announce a technical cooperation with Toyota, apparently by dint of the team’s technical director, Mike Gascoyne, proving the link between the two camps.
Team boss Tony Fernandes had recently hinted during the Italian Grand Prix weekend: “We have to do something different and it will be done soon.
“Lots of negotiations have gone on over the last couple of weeks and we’re very happy with the outcome,” he added, when speaking to the BBC.
One thing Autosprint seemed to have forgotten is that Gascoyne was rather unceremoniously sacked from the Toyota squad in mid-2006 after a major disagreement with the team’s management over the technical direction of the car. It would therefore seem unlikely – despite the fact that Gascoyne has been instrumental in headhunting several key ex-Toyota staff whom he worked alongside during his stint with the Japanese squad – that he has somehow managed to rebuild that bridge with the former F1 team.
But stranger things have happened, and we will have to await the announcement from Lotus at the Singapore Grand Prix. Don’t say you didn’t read it here first…
[Original image via Sutton Images]