HRT boss Colin Kolles says he has every reason to feel confident that his Formula 1 team can deliver a step forward in performance in 2011, having overcome the odds in simply getting to the grid last year.
Kolles was drafted in by the Spanish team on the eve of the 2010 campaign to help rescue its stalling preparations for the season. He ensured the team not only got itself ready for the first race in Bahrain but also that it completed the full schedule.
Although the team still faces big hurdles in securing its financial base, and building up a solid technical infrastructure, Kolles is upbeat that HRT is ready to show that it can move forward in Formula 1 in 2011.
The team suffered a setback last year when a planned technical tie-up with Toyota for 2011 was terminated, but that has not stopped HRT's technical chief Geoff Willis pressing full-steam ahead with the team's new car, which it hopes to be ready for one of the final preseason tests.
Kolles believes that with Willis' input, plus the hydraulic tie-up with Williams, HRT has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what it can achieve this year.
"The car looks completely different," Kolles told AUTOSPORT. "It looks more developed and improved.
"We obviously have a Williams rear end with the hydraulics and the Cosworth engine. This package was able to qualify in the top 10 last year, so it cannot be that bad. That is not going to be our weak point.
"I hope we can improve on the aero package and, for sure, at the first race the car is not going to be a frontrunner – although you should never say never in F1! But we have to be realistic and we have to work hard."
Kolles has confirmed the team will begin its 2011 testing program with its 2010 car, and said HRT hoped to have an interim version of the new model running as quickly as it can.
"We will run in the Valencia test with an old car, and maybe then we will have an interim car. We hope to run the new car as soon as possible – as soon as it is achievable."
When asked if he felt Willis had what he needed to deliver a step forward for HRT, Kolles said: "No – an engineer never has everything he needs. He wants more, of course, and we all want to improve more. We are a small team and we are trying to do a better job."
HRT's financial situation has been boosted by the signing of Narain Karthikeyan, who brings along sponsorship from the Tata Group. And although the outfit is still chasing further financial opportunities, Kolles believes his outfit is in no worse money shape than some other teams on the grid.
"I think that you shouldn't look at others, but I think maybe we have smaller problems than others have," he said. "Every team needs sponsorship and money to improve and compete. It is very normal and a daily fight, and obviously the situation in the last 24 months is not easy. But everybody has to do his best and to fight and to keep it alive."
The team still is in talks with several drivers about the second race seat, but Kolles said that Bruno Senna would definitely not return this season.
"I can definitely say that Mr. Bruno Senna is not going to race for HRT. 100 percent not," Kolles told Reuters.