Will Gray

Team preview: Hispania

Will Gray

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Spanish
minnows Hispania had tough times in the finance and performance departments
last year and are still clearly chasing budget for 2011 - but with some respected
names at the helm can they pull off a surprise?

After
joining Lotus and Virgin as newcomers on the F1 grid in 2010 it was not
actually Hispania that picked up the wooden spoon last year - that went to
Virgin as the Spanish minnows actually had the better race results. But there
was no denying that on pace and performance, they were some way behind their
rival rookies.

Leading
the team, former Jordan and Force India boss Colin Kolles has resiliently
focused on trying to develop a long-term platform, facing constant claims that
the team will fail to reach the next step of its F1 journey yet proving them
wrong each step of the way.

By
reaching the grid in Melbourne, he will have proven the doubters wrong again -
but to survive is one thing, to progress is a different thing altogether.

A new
livery, designed by sci-fi film artist Daniel Simon, has given the team a fresh
look for 2011, but the fact that when images of the car were released most of
the sponsorship areas were filled with phrases like 'your logo here', 'this
could be you' and, bizarrely, 'this is a cool spot' served only to demonstrate
the biggest challenge that the team is facing this year.

Further
up the grid, Williams and Sauber have both faced budget issues themselves and
called in pay drivers to cover the hole. At Hispania, it is the Indian money
supporting Narain Karthikeyan's (pictured) surprise return to the grid, in the shape of
support from TATA, that will help the team - but it is not believed to be
anywhere near as significant as the other teams' deals.

Last
year, the car was outsourced to Dallara but the team was critical of its design
and the relationship broke down. It proved to be the slowest on the grid by
some margin and Dallara was ditched. When a planned tie-up with Toyota Motorsport
for 2011 fell through, it was down to former Williams, BAR-Honda and Red Bull
technical leader Geoff Willis, who joined the team early last year, to assemble
a group of engineers to work on a new car themselves.

The new
F111 (given Ferrari and Ford's F150 battle, surely there's a naming dispute
there too?!) is understood to be mainly a development of last year's machine,
although Willis will have done everything within his means to improve it.
Having a Williams gearbox (albeit the version from 2010, it is understood) has
been a major benefit in that area, while a mostly CFD focused approach has
helped maximise development time per dollar, but there are no high aspirations
here, just a team facing reality.

Last
year the team failed to turn a wheel before the first race and paid the
consequences when a fraught opening few races beset by mistakes and delays saw
them struggle to get out of the garage. This year they are in the same
position, having had to delay the debut of their car during the final test and
then cancel it altogether when parts failed to make it out of customs.

They
have also split from FOTA, making them effectively F1 outcasts, after
disagreeing over the lack of support for the smaller teams. Right now, with the
positive talk flowing from Lotus and Virgin it feels like Hispania are very
much on their own, both off and on the track.

That
said, they have just welcomed highly rated and experienced driver Vitantonio
Liuzzi to the fold to drive alongside Karthikeyan, and his input could be
valuable, while Willis is never short of design ideas to develop.

Sadly,
however, with such limited resources they will do well to fund the kind of
development levels needed to catch and hang onto the tails of those ahead of
them
. Every underdog fan hopes they can. But if they don't, it won't be for
want of trying.

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Every day leading up to the start of the F1 season, Will Gray will be breaking down a different team's prospects for 2011.

The schedule is as follows: Mar 14 Virgin; Mar 15 HRT; Mar 16 Lotus; Mar 17 Toro Rosso; Mar 18 Sauber; Mar 19 Force India; Mar 20 Williams; Mar 21 Renault, Mar 22 Mercedes; Mar 23 Ferrari; Mar 24 McLaren; Mar 25 Red Bull

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