The HRT F1 team’s current owners, the Spanish investment firm Thesan Capital, have put the up for sale. The Madrid-based team, which relocated to its new multi-million dollar facility earlier this year, has optimistically declared that is hopes to complete the sale “in the upcoming weeks”.
But will anyone actually be willing to buy the backmarker outfit?
Having been originally founded in late 2009 by former F1 driver Adrian Campos as the Campos Meta F1 team, the outfit was set to debut in 2010 with a Cosworth-powered chassis designed by Dallara.
But the bills were not being paid on time and the entire project looked to fail before it even got off the ground.
That was, until Spanish businessman José Ramón Carabante made an eleventh-hour purchase of the team – renaming it Hispania Racing – and appointed former F1 team principal Colin Kolles at the helm, using the Romanian’s German-based Kolles Motorsport headquarters in Germany to run the operation.
The F110 – piloted by Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok, Sakon Yamamoto and Christian Klien – was comfortably the slowest car on the grid. But what it lacked in pace was more than made up for in reliability, and the team finished ahead of the better-funded Virgin Racing team in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
|The team twice finished eleventh in the Constructors’ Championship standings|
The team struggled on into 2011 – now with Vitantonio Liuzzi, Narain Karthikeyan and Daniel Ricciardo forming its chop-and-change driver line-up – and was sold mid-season to Thesan Capital, who declared that they would continue with the current management structure while focusing on moving the team towards a “more Spanish” operational culture in a bid to attract more local investment.
Despite the upheaval, the team again finished ahead of the Virgin Racing team in the Constructors’ Championship standings, although its F111s regularly occupied the last row of the grid once again.
At the end of the 2011 season, the team underwent another reshuffle. Kolles was ousted as team principal and Thesan appointed former F1 driver Luis Pérez-Sala. The team would also be renamed HRTF1 under its new structure.
And in what became yet another instance of history repeating itself, the new car was late in arriving – this time after narrowly failing the mandatory FIA crash tests – and both drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan failed to make the qualifying cut at the season-opener in Australia.
Despite Sala’s calm and capable presence at the helm, the team toiled on without the anticipated investment from Spain and it currently sits last in this year’s Constructors’ Championship standings.
But the investors within Thesan Capital have clearly grown tired of pouring money into the failing F1 team with next to no return, and the decision has been made to find the team’s fourth new owner.
“We believe the moment to let new investors come through for HRT Formula 1 Team has arrived,” a statement issued by the team’s management explained.
“We’re very proud of the work done by the entire team and of the excellent sporting evolution achieved but the time has come for the team to continue growing with new financial backing.
“We’re convinced that the sporting potential of the team is huge and that the presence of new investors can give it a big boost.
“[We] are currently in talks with a number of groups interested in buying the team. HRT Formula 1 Team’s current management hopes to conclude the sale in the upcoming weeks and, with it, enable the team to continue progressing and become a reference in modern-day Formula 1 after the important achievements already accomplished in this 2012 season. HRT Formula 1 Team hopes to communicate the name of its new owner in the upcoming weeks.”
Already there are rumours of a buyer in the Middle East being in advanced negotiations to save the team, but whenever a team is put up for sale, a host of – frankly laughable – candidates tend to emerge from the woodwork, often with little to show for their supposed claims of wealth and motorsport experience.
Typically, the genuine buyers will work behind the scenes to thrash out a deal, and often not without the blessing of Bernie Ecclestone, who will remain keen to keep the grid at 24 cars heading into 2013.
For now, that looks a distinctly unlikely prospect.
In no way should the individual members of the HRTF1 Team be criticised for the team’s current position. Talking from personal experience given my interactions with them as a journalist since the team’s inception, they are a hard-working, dedicated and extremely professional team who deserve far more than the fate that is sadly awaiting them.
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