A frontrunner in GP2 for the last few seasons, Spanish driver Dani Clos has been signed on as the HRTF1 team’s official test and reserve driver for the 2012 Formula 1 season. We sat down and spoke with the 23-year-old in the Albert Park paddock today…
How have you been spending your time so far in Australia?
I’ve not had any opportunity to take in the sights of Melbourne. We had a long trip to get here, and my time has been spent between the hotel and the track. We have a lot of work to do now getting both cars ready for first practice tomorrow, so there’s been no time for visiting anything yet.
Your role in the team is as the reserve and test driver. When will you have an opportunity to get behind the wheel in Friday practice?
It won’t be this weekend. Our priority is to get the car ready and the drivers [Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan] settled with it, so I won’t be driving here at Melbourne, but I am expecting the chance to do so later this season.
You’ve already had the chance to sample Formula 1 machinery at last year’s Abu Dhabi ‘Young Drivers’ test. What was the experience like?
It was really good. I come from GP2, so I didn’t find the extra difference in engine power to be too much of a step. Once you get used to the cornering and straight-line speed, it’s quite easy.
It’s everything around the car – the extra mechanics and engineers, the hospitality – that’s more impressive, and then inside the car you have more grip and more buttons to press on the steering wheel. It’s simply a case of getting used to these chances through practice. It’s always a good feeling to be in the car.
As a Spanish driver in a Spanish team, is there a greater sense of occasion or expectation in your homeland?
I’m quite happy to have this extra pressure, for me it’s nice. To have my first opportunity to be in this championship with the HRTF1 Team is an incredible experience.
Everyone in the team is so motivated. This is a project starting from zero, and it’s just amazing for me.
You will be working with two fellow Spaniards, in team principal Luis Pérez-Sala and lead driver Pedro de la Rosa. What is it like to have these two mentors in your camp?
It’s funny in a way for me. I used to have Luis as my driving coach when I started out in racing, and I’ve known Pedro since my days in karting. It’s an amazing feeling to be working with them again, and to be around people who I have confidence in and who can address any doubts I have is a huge lift for me.
Will you be exploring other opportunities to race this year to keep yourself sharp, given that the restrictions on in-season testing make it difficult for test drivers to get much F1 mileage to begin with?
I’m always looking forward, and I have some options. I’ve had calls from some teams in GP2 to drive for them this year.
The current climate means it’s very difficult and expensive to put together a budget for a complete season, so for sure I’ll be getting a drive this year, even if it’s not for the whole season.
For me, it’s important to remain in the F1 paddock and pursue my dream of making it into Formula 1 full-time. I’m going to learn as much as I can to be as prepared as much as possible for the next opportunity that comes my way.
Images via HRTF1 Team and RichardsF1.com