BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Hispania Racing heads to the Australian Grand Prix with a new car that has not turned a wheel in official preseason testing. The team finally unveiled its F111 on the second last day of the final test but was unable to run it because, according to the official line, the car’s shock absorbers were stuck in customs.
After its deal to use Toyota’s former F-1 project fell through due to lack of payment, HRT had to rush to build up its own chassis with its own group of engineers and designers under the technical leadership of Geoff Willis and chief designer Paul White.
“It’s been a tough winter but we’ve managed to have a new car in a very short time,” team principal Colin Kolles said. “The new car is definitely better than last year’s one.”
With its striking red and white livery created by Hollywood designer Daniel Simon, the F111 certainly looks better than the drab grey F110.
The new car is also definitely ahead of schedule compared to last year’s which was still being built as practice began for the first race. HRT has signed veteran Tonio Liuzzi to partner F-1 returnee Narain Karthikeyan this season.
– The Sporting Regulations have been amended to allow one additional specification of dry weather tires to be made available to all teams for evaluation purposes at certain events. This is good news for everybody as it will allow Pirelli and the teams to continue to experiment with new tires even though testing is banned during the season.
– Robert Kubica underwent a minor surgery on his elbow to speed up his rehabilitation. He’s able to move his fingers and wrist, but Renault’s team doctor says there is no way to estimate when he will race again.
“What we can say — this year, next year or three years?” Dr. Riccardo Ceccarelli told the media during the Barcelona test. “It makes no sense [to predict] in this moment. He has made a good job, he is reacting well, and it will take time, a long time.”
The Polish driver remains in the Italian Pietra Ligure hospital because it has the best physiotherapy, medical and rehab facilities all available in the same location.
“Robert is getting better every day,” Ceccarelli revealed. “I see that he is recovering, psychologically and physically, very quickly. There is a third factor which is nature — how will nature be with him? Nice or not? Fast or not? This is something we cannot say. So it is a question that is impossible to answer.”
– Team Lotus has signed Luiz Razia as its reserve driver, and Davide Valsecchi and Ricardo Teixeira as test drivers. Luiz and Davide will pay to take part in a number of Friday practice sessions at selected races this year, and Teixeira contributed to the team’s coffers as well.
– The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council has asked the Bahrain Motor Federation to communicate by May 1 at the latest if the Bahrain Grand Prix can be organized in 2011.
Protests continue in the country that is ruled by the Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa family but with a population that comprises of 70 percent of Shiite Muslims. There is a hair-trigger atmosphere as sectarian tensions continue in the city of Manama, and new clashes between police and the protesters erupted last weekend.
The epicenter of the protests is Pearl Square, which is next to the main road leading to the race track, and it is close to many of the hotels where the F-1 teams stay. It is difficult to see how the Bahrainis can guarantee just seven weeks from now that the political situation will be calm enough to host a the grand prix in November.
– Red Bull Racing enters the new season better prepared than it has ever been in its seven-year history. The RB7 is very quick, but Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel remain cautious about their prospects of winning.
“I’d love to tell you where we stand and what the pecking order is,” Webber said, “but until we finish the race in Melbourne it’s really impossible to know. Even after qualifying in Australia we’ll know just 60 percent of what we need to know, because the tire choice will make the weekends different from what we were used to. So only after the first race we’ll know where we stand.”