Pedro de la Rosa believes the three-week gap before the start of F1's European season will be invaluable for HRT, even though the team is missing next week's Mugello test.
Having only got its car running properly for the first time at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, HRT has had to deliver improvements on the road over the first four overseas races. But with the team's car now returning to its new Madrid base for the first time, de la Rosa thinks the next few weeks will be a huge help in allowing the team to find its feet.
"I think now we have some time to go back to base, and when I say base, it is our new base, which is important because finally we have our home," de la Rosa said. "We need to still develop the car, but we can now spend time in the wind tunnel, and spend time optimising the setup. We know our weaknesses, and these few races have been like the preseason for us. We were three months too late and have been paying the price for that."
De la Rosa is upbeat about the progress that HRT has made so far, from not qualifying in Australia to outperforming one of the Marussias in the battle for grid positions in Bahrain last weekend. He feels that the potential to make further gains is there, even though he is not expecting any dramatic move up the grid.
"I think we have a solid structure underneath us now, and the result in Bahrain was an unexpected bonus because nobody was expecting us to outqualify a Marussia or finish races like in Malaysia. I am looking forward to the rest of the season, because we have more time to develop what is a solid platform. We have to improve, but we have the people and the factory now.
"There is stability that we didn't have a few months ago – or even a few weeks ago. It is a new start; now we can say we are starting properly."