2010 started off with difficulties for Hispania Racing Team. Originally intended to be run as Campos Meta under the leadership of Adrian Campos, ownership changed to Jose Ramon Carabante and the team was renamed HRT.
Using a car designed by Dallara, it was an achievement that the team were able to reach Bahrain. Colin Kolles, former team boss of the Midland/Spyker team was brought in to run the team, along with Geoff Willis to oversee the technical side of the team. Under Campos Meta, the team had signed Bruno Senna as one of their race drivers and was retained under HRT. To partner him was his former GP2 team mate Karun Chandhok.
The team suffered problems from the start of the season. Missing all of pre-season testing, Chandhok was not even able to run any laps in Free Practice in Bahrain due to problems with the car. His first taste of Formula 1 action came in the first Qualifying session.
HRT lacked reliability for the first part of the season, and with the car being described as basic by Geoff Willis, the tie up with Dallara was ended and no development went into the car all year. Often being around 5 seconds off the pace, HRT were often found propping up the back of the grid. The drivers acquitted themselves well through the year despite all the difficulties the team faced, with constant rumours and speculation that the team would not make the end of the season.
Along with the rookie pairing of Senna and Chandhok, HRT also signed two experienced drivers, Christian Klien and Sakon Yamamoto, who would often take part in Friday Free Practice sessions through the season to better understand the package. Karun Chandhok was dropped mid way through the season to be replaced by Yamamoto, the team stated that this was due to having four contracted drivers and to give them all a chance in the car, but rumours persisted that Chandhok was dropped due to Yamamoto bringing money to the team, this was despite the young Indian achieving two 14 place finishes, and ending the higher of all four HRT drivers in the World Championship based on these results.
2010 has been a difficult year for Hispania Racing Team, and 2011 does not look like improving. Talk of a deal emerged with Toyota Motorsport to use Toyota’s 2010 car and the resources of the Cologne based factory for their 2011 package. Toyota Motorsport announced that this deal was to be cancelled due to HRT failing to make payments.
A deal was signed with the Williams Team to use their gearboxes for their upcoming F111 car, and they will continue with Cosworth engines for 2011. Rumours of the team being up for sale and suffering with more financial problems cannot help coming up to the start of the new season. HRT cannot start this year in the same way as they started 2010, otherwise there is no chance of them being able to make progress and establish themselves as a credible Formula 1 team.
For 2011, HRT have only confirmed one driver, Narain Karthikeyan, who returns to Formula 1 after previously racing for the Jordan team in 2005 while the team was under the leadership of Colin Kolles.
Since leaving the Jordan team at the end of the 2005 season, Karthikeyan spent the following two seasons as test driver for the Williams team. From 2007, Karthikeyan has taken part in other forms of motorsport, including being part of A1 Team India, racing for the Kolles Audi team in the Le Mans Series in 2009, and in 2010 taking part in Superleague Formula and the NASCAR Truck Series.
After this absence the Indian driver makes his return to Formula 1 with the Hispania Team in 2011 to be reunited with Colin Kolles. Rumours of him bringing sponsorship to the team could explain how he was able to return to Formula 1 after a long absence.
HRT also have the added bonus of having an Indian driver in their car in a year of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, which will no doubt increase the exposure of the team and could bring in more sponsorship.
With such a difficult first year, and reports of further problems coming into this season, Hispania Racing Team must aim for respectability in 2011. With the return of the 107% Qualifying rule, they must ensure that they have the pace to make the grid and improve the car enough to catch the other new teams who will undoubtedly make huge steps forward in 2011.