Last winter Colin Kolles was parachuted into what was then the Campos team to try and create a functioning grand prix squad out of the troubled start-up project in little more than a month.
In 2011 Hispania is again the last team to launch its new car, but this time it will at least get a test day, and Kolles feels the strides of the last 12 months have been massive. He spoke about the new car and thew progress made during the unveiling at Barcelona today.
Q. Last season your car didn't run until Friday in Bahrain. This year is a better situation...
Colin Kolles: Yes, we will be much better prepared. We have many more spares, we are more in shape, and we have a better car. I'm definitely convinced that the performance of the car will be better than last year's car. We have made a step forward in performance. I don't think all the others have recovered the loss in performance, so let's see what happens in Melbourne.
Q. How hard has this winter been compared to last year?
CK: Last winter there was nothing – I started on Feb. 7 basically to build up a team. The situation this year is totally different. We have a team, we have an efficient team, but we've had to build a car. In both things we are very efficient. For this I want to thank everybody and I'm really proud of them.
Q. How much of the car is totally new, how much carried over?
CK: 95 percent new. Maybe the brake calipers are the same spec. The underbody is new, the gearbox new, suspension new, uprights new, rear wing new, engine cover, sidepods new, air intake new, monocoque is new homologation and new spec, nosebox new, front wing new, uprights and front suspension new, dampers new, electronics new. OK, the same McLaren electrics. Hydraulics new, steering wheel new. Maybe the mirrors are still the same.
Q. Was that an ambitious project for a small team?
CK: To make such a big effort in a short time as a small team, yes. This is what I'm proud of.
Q. Has the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix helped you?
CK: We would have been ready for Bahrain. The point is, in what spec and in which shape we would have been ready for Bahrain. It makes no sense just to get a car out, just to be eligible. It should also be more competitive and in better shape. It's not the primary target just to get a car, but to improve it.
Q. When will the car run?
CK: As soon as possible.
CK: If possible, yes. We are still waiting for the dampers, which are in customs because they come from America.
Q. What can you achieve in 2011 compared to last year?
CK: We had a bad package, we had rookie drivers [in 2010]. I'm not going to comment on quality of the drivers. I think we have a better package with the car and better package in terms of drivers.
Q. So what sort of jump can you make?
CK: Let's see in Melbourne.
Q. But you're expecting a step forward?
CK: If I open my mouth too much now it's not good. I don't know. I think that our car is quicker than last year's car. Significantly. We have a Williams rear end, we have a Cosworth engine – this is a package you can get in the top 10 in qualifying, and finish sixth in the championship. There is nothing wrong there. We have an improved aero package so everything looks more promising. We have drivers with much more experience so this should all be better. On paper it looks better, I think.
Q. How important was it for you to get Tonio Liuzzi?
CK: I think this is very crucial for the team. This was always my target. People are always not really understanding Formula 1 or not really understanding motorsport. I don't want to say that I understand it, but some people they don't really understand anything. The point is, we have to try to find the best package, this is what I've always said. This means on the financial side and also the sporting side. It makes no sense if I cannot pay the bills. We have to look ahead and try to be efficient and to improve the car and improve the team.
Obviously, with the drivers I think that Tonio is one of the best drivers in terms of giving feedback to the engineers. I think what he did in Barcelona at the last test was an amazing job because I know how much fuel there was on and I know what would have been possible. This was one of the major points. I always said there was maybe a driver who still had a contract with another team. We were always in contact and always in touch. If you have a target then you have to achieve the target.
Q. Is it significant that you've chosen Liuzzi because of his speed rather than looking for a driver with funding?
CK: Yes, because it is always a balance, always the package. It makes no sense if you have a better car and maybe 10 million more [but a pay driver] – this makes you also not happy or better. If you save 10 million because you have a better driver and you achieve better results, then you are happier.
I think that when the shareholders understood this strategy at Force India and took Liuzzi and took [Giancarlo] Fisichella and kept [Adrian] Sutil, this is where the team has made a step. Drivers like Liuzzi and Fisichella, they contributed a lot to bring the right feedback, to take a step forward. Obviously the engineers had to also do their job, like the whole team.
Q. What's your impression of testing form – have the other cars near the back made a step forward?
CK: Let's see.
Q. Are you worried about that at all?
CK: I'm not worried about this. I will be worried on Saturday at 2:00 [in Melbourne] if I have to go to the stewards...
Q. What's the background to the car's new image?
CK: I think the car looks fantastic, not only aerodynamically but also the look. It is completely different to everything that went before in Formula 1, everything that is now in Formula 1. I think we have a very visible car, very visible for sponsors. This is my opinion – I think it's a great-looking car. Obviously tastes are different, maybe people think it's an ugly-looking car, I don't know. To me, it looks nice.
It looks like a proper Formula 1 car. This was one of the targets, to improve the team in all areas - to have a better car, to have better drivers, to have a better image, to have a better look.
Q. Are you concerned about only having one day of testing?
CK: I think we will be fine, because we work with the proper people and there is a clear mission. We know that we don't have the quickest car. That's very clear. We can discuss how to take the risk and get one tenth more on something. This is not our strategy, our strategy is to be reliable, to finish races, to have experienced drivers to take advantage of certain situations.
I hope the racing will be quite interesting with the tires. Maybe on one lap we will be not as fast as others, but let's see how this develops through the race – how many pit stops others will need, how many pit stops we will need.
Q. Last season you had to do lots of fire-fighting to keep the team going, do you feel more in control now?
CK: I'm fighting fires every day...
Q. But you're now more in control...?
CK: My nature is to control every day, and every day to not go home and say, 'Oh this will be OK.' Maybe it's wrong, I don't know. I just want to make sure things are done, that's all.
Q. Is Jose Ramon Carabante still motivated?
CK: Mr. Carabante is very motivated.
Q. How is the sponsorship situation?
CK: We are working. But there is a budget that has been signed off, and we are working according to this budget. We plan to have updates, we have a development program. So let's see how it develops. Obviously you have to work every day and every night to get more money into every team – not only our team, any team.
If somebody's telling you that they don't need money, they are lying. Everybody needs more money to have a better product, and to develop a better product. So therefore it's never enough, even if the budget was covered, you cannot go on holiday because then you just don't go forward.