Interview with HRT's Luis Perez-Sala
Following the recent exit of Colin Kolles, former Minardi driver Luis Pérez-Sala has taken up the reigns at HRT F1. The 52-year-old Spaniard, who scored a sole World Championship point during his career, discusses the task ahead of him, the team's overall ambitions and ponders when a second driver is expected to be confirmed.
You arrived at HRT in July as a sporting adviser and now you are the Team Principal, what are your feelings and how are you taking on this new task you are presented with?
This past July, the owners of HRT offered me the opportunity of advising them in this project they were embarking on and it felt an interesting challenge. This new step from advisor to Team Principal is a very important one and it is a great honor for me that the new owners have placed their trust in me to take on the bigger responsibility that comes with this job.
It is an important challenge to be at the head of this team, even though it is a small one, and build a project that would be viable in the future and one that we can all feel proud of. It is a nice challenge. I will try to contribute my experience so that the goals we’ve set ourselves become a reality, never forgetting to be humble and knowing that we have a lot to learn and much work to do.
As a Formula 1 driver you raced for Minardi who, just like HRT, were a small team. How has F1 changed since then?
I keep very good memories of my experience with Minardi. Since then, Formula 1 has evolved a lot, mainly technologically in aspects such as aerodynamics and electronics. Back then, it was already very professionalized but now the teams have considerably enlarged their structures and it’s all a lot more sophisticated. And there are still a lot of people from back then working in Formula 1.
All that hard work is paying off and now the team is making a notable change. How do you think the Formula 1 world and the general public are portraying these changes?
We’re a small team and sometimes it is hard to realize what that entails. Still, especially on a national level, I think people perceive positively the change in direction that the team has been taking these last few months. Little by little people are starting to trust us. Internationally there are still perhaps some doubts with respect to what will happen, but those doubts can only be cleared with time.
With every Grand Prix people will see how implicated we are, our continuity and the serious work we are carrying out.
HRT is undergoing a profound restructuring and identity process ahead of its third season, which is the path to follow now?
As of now our main objective is to consolidate the structure of our team. We still have to bring in people and determine important roles but that’s normal and we are ready for it. Now the most important thing is, with the strategy defined, to finish setting the basis so that, from there, we can begin to grow and build a future.
What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of the team?
Right now the main strength of the team is the people that make it up. There is a good group of professionals, with a lot of desire and willpower and faith in this project, this is very important because the sacrifices that are being made and that will have to be made are big ones. The major weakness is that the team is still going through a process of change and we are in December and Formula 1 doesn’t stop.
This is a competition where the deadlines are established and where you’re being examined publicly, officially and permanently. That is the main inconvenience for us at this time of restructuring. But one thing is for sure and that is that we will work to the fullest and put in all our effort.
What are HRT’s goals in the short, medium and long term?
In the short term the main objective is to consolidate the project. Create a strong team in Spain that works, with the technical area in Munich. And of course to have the 2012 car ready for the start of the season to be able to take part in the first race and all the pre-season tests that we can.
In the medium term we intend to improve the car and get closer to our rivals, to see which are our strengths and weaknesses and work to improve at every Grand Prix. In the long run, with a better car and a solid structure, we will think about the strategy for 2013 and, above all, 2014 when there will be major changes to regulations.
In just under two months preseason testing gets underway, how do you think that the changes the structure is going through will affect the team at the start of the season?
The task ahead of us, with the design of the car and change of headquarters, is huge. Formula 1 is very complicated and implies a lot of preparation work as it so, in this respect, HRT is a little bit behind other teams. We will feel the effects of this transformation the team is going through and will have “pay” for it at the start of the season.
We’re not going to be at the same level as when we finished this past season, where the same team had been running for two years, but we’re aware of that. We’re taking a step back so that we can take two forward. 2012 will be an important year for us to settle and face a more natural and stable situation in 2013.
Pedro de la Rosa said that one of the main reasons for him to join this project was you and Saul Ruiz de Marcos. How do you assess that?
It makes me very happy that Pedro has trusted so much in us and I hope that we can return his trust with results. As our relationship grows I hope that he feels proud to have made this decision.
Talking of drivers, at what stage is the decision regarding the second driver?
We are in advanced talks with several drivers but we can’t anticipate anything yet. It’s a decision we surely won’t make until the start of next year because, at this stage, who will be the team’s second driver for next season is perhaps the least urgent one right now.
The other question is where the team’s base will be. What can you tell us with regards to this?
Right now we are working at a provisional base in Valencia until the location of the permanent headquarters is defined. There a few strong options but nothing is closed yet. Once everything is sealed we will make it official.