HRT's new team principal Luis Perez-Sala has admitted that the squad will probably start 2012 in worse shape than it ended 2011 as its restructuring progresses, but is confident that the team's longer-term prospects are now much brighter.
The team is aiming to establish a more Spanish flavor under new owner Thesan Capital, and this week promoted ex-Formula 1 racer Perez-Sala to the team boss position after the departure of Colin Kolles, who had guide HRT since its eleventh-hour transformation from the struggling Campos project just prior to its grand prix debut in 2010.
Although design work for the 2012 car is being carried out in Munich, HRT is beginning to establish a new Spanish base in Valencia, and has signed former McLaren reserve Pedro de la Rosa as its first driver for next year. Perez-Sala conceded that producing the new car while moving base and restructuring the team was a tall order, and that it was likely to result in a very difficult start to 2012.
"The task ahead of us, with the design of the car and change of headquarters, is huge," he said. "Formula 1 is very complicated and implies a lot of preparation work, 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 to 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."
The Spaniard said he had total faith in the ability of the HRT personnel and that it was only the element of transition this winter that would set the squad back.
"Right now the main strength of the team is the people that make it up," said Perez-Sala. "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."
Perez-Sala thinks it will probably take the new generation F1 rules in 2014 for HRT to really close the gap to the established teams.
"In the medium term we intend to improve the car and get closer to our rivals than last year," he said. "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."
He added that amid all the changes within the team, naming a second driver alongside de la Rosa was not currently a priority.
"We are in advanced talks with several drivers but we can't anticipate anything yet," Perez-Sala said. "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."