That was the eventual name for the team propping up the 2011 Grid. I always liked Campos Meta better, but to have any new team at all is fantastic. 20 cars just seems to be too little for me, though Bernie doesn't agree. Now there are more seats available for drivers to get in. Yay! Pay drivers they may be, but to be fair, the 2010 crop contained a very decent helping of talent too. There were certainly no hopeless cases at all, unlike the mid 1990's (I will mention no names, expect for Jean-Denis Deletraz, a driver who the facts show to be so shockingly awful, needs to be named and shamed!).

The same has to be said for the team too. By no means were Hispania hopelessly out of their depth, and they averaged a gap of roughly 5-6 seconds to the fastest, which is not too bad. Again, the 1990's are a good reference if you want to know what a truly bad team is. I'll pick on Andrea Moda, a team who's death-trap cars thankfully didn't kill their drivers. They did actually qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix in the hands of "supersub" i.e. Roberto Moreno!

Considering Hispania have come in for plenty of flak over the season, it is just good to have another team there at all, especially because they have shown some sort of respectability and played pretty well with the cards they were dealt, it seemed to me. In fact, they did an excellent job to get to Bahrain at all. It really did look for a while that they too would go the way of USF1 and close down before they even got started! But they not only got there, they made it to all the races and reached the end of the season intact (just about). That defied quite a few predictions that were going round.

A major bonus was the recruitment of Geoff Willis, the man who brought BAR such a great improvement with his sharp 2003 and 2004 machines. 2003 would have achieved good success, had BAR not been saddled with Bridgestone tyres, which for that season, were fairly useless. Willis then went even better in 2004, coming up with a creation which, having also changed to Michelin tyres, memorably scored a ton of podiums and points and an easy 2nd in the constructors' championship. He also worked well for Williams before that.

Campos Meta, as they were called at their time of creation, had been founded by Adrian Campos, a Spanish former Minardi Driver 20 years ago. Like many Minardi drivers, he wasn't particularly good, but fared better as a team boss, running his team in Formula Nissan, and more recently GP2 with some good success.

A good move at the start of the season was hiring Colin Kolles. He might not have a reputation as the greatest team boss ever, but he does have recent experience with the Midland/Spyker team. And he also has a history of Lower Formula success as a team boss. For where Hispania are at now, he can only be an asset to them.

The same theory could go for the signing of Christian Klien as 3rd driver (test driver). Although when he had a go in the car, Chandhok said that Klien had reported nothing extra to what the race drivers had. So it wasn't known how useful he could be.

With such a short timescale to get ready for the season (like all the new teams), Campos decided to contract out the designing and building of the car to Dallara, a constructor with very high pedigree in lower Formulas. Unfortunately, as Reynard showed in 1999 (with BAR), that does not at all mean that will translate to F1 success. And so it proved for Campos too, with a new, competitive car - by GP2 standards!!! When Geoff Willis came on board, the ancient technology Dallara had used almost drove him insane! He almost left the team.

Now for the drivers. Campos Meta enjoyed the honour for being one of the very first teams to confirm a driver for 2010 - and it was an extremely interesting name - none other than Bruno Senna! The name needs no introductions, and it wasn't much of a secret that Campos stood to benefit very well commercially and otherwise from being associated with it. They also hoped that Bruno had inherited some of his uncle's talent too.

The first seat (Senna was signed for car 21 for some reason) remained empty for almost the whole of the off season without much of a clue as to who would fill it. Eventually, a deal with Karun Chandhok was announced. With only a couple of weeks to go before season's start, India's second F1 driver, hailing from South-Eastern Chennai (Madras) had plenty of work to do - quickly. This driver line up also replicated the 2008 line up at i-Sport in GP2, when Senna and Chandhok were team-mates. That time, qualifying had gone about 7-3 to Senna who finished runner up in the Championship, with Chandhok 10th.

So shaky were things looking at the end of February that the team, by this having been renamed Hispania, were not even able to test at all before shipping out to Bahrain. Unsurprisingly, they were well off the pace at the first round. Chandhok qualified about 1.7 seconds behind Senna, but maybe that was actually very good, for he had had much less running and more problems than his team-mate.

Hispania turned out to be the slowest team of all, and that did not change as the season went on. Quite impressively, both cars definitely finished more often than not. However, in this age of super-reliability, they were unable to score higher than 14th place.

Perhaps against expectations, it was Chandhok who early on posted the better finishes. He outqualified Senna a few times too. Unfortunately, this led to the very unbalanced (in my view) opinion that Chandhok was actually the better driver! Is it just me or is that extremely superficial and naive, or am I being naive thinking others are being naive? Though Senna was undoubtedly posting more retirements, a more objective view surely puts the former GP2 runner-up ahead. Chandhok still did a solid job though, and many were disappointed to see him lose his seat mid-season. But it seemed financial issues dictated that that was how it had to be. He seems to have gained quite a following though, and is proving popular with the fans. He is also reportedly well-connected with Bernie Ecclestone and on friendly terms with him - that must help! So it looks like we could see him back at some point.

Onto Senna. With his illustrious name, it seemed that F1 was becoming very retro (that is not bad at all, by the way!). In the same year, there has been the return of Schumacher, Mercedes and Lotus. And Sauber as well. And Pedro de la Rosa (ok, maybe not him so much).

Anyway, looking at things objectively, it has to be said he was definitely the fastest of the regular drivers. It is possible that he is actually doing an outstanding job considering he has the disadvantage of a career gap of more than a decade!!! That must have a (gigantic?) effect. But from another angle: Senna's uncle was able, in his first season and only his 6th race, to almost win the Monaco Grand Prix. He would have defeated even Alain Prost in a McLaren had Prost not had the race stopped unfairly to protect his position. Consider that Ayrton was armed with just a lowly Toleman, and the conclusion is that if a driver is truly great, then his talent should be able to shine through whatever the circumstances. Also consider that in 2001, Fernando Alonso was able to demonstrate overflowing talent in a hastily bolted together Minardi, in very similar circumstances to Bruno - all at the age of 19. It has to be said that at no stage has Bruno appeared to show something similar... So the jury is still out on how good the guy can be.

Bruno was dropped at Silverstone, although his seat was promised to be given back to him. A convincing reason was not given. The unconfirmed rumour was that the real reason he was dropped was as discipline because Senna had been bad-mouthing Colin Kolles behind his back. This had been carried out by email, it was said, and the driver meant to send that email to his friends. But he sent it to his boss by mistake! (We've all done something like that eh?)

Anyway, Senna's absence paved the way for the return of Sakon Yamamoto, bringing with him 5 Million (in some sort of currency I can't remember). That can't have hurt. He qualified and finished last at short notice. Yamamoto then took Chandhok's seat for most of the remaining races. Now Sakon does not appear to be world champion material like some people, but I feel that a lot of the stick he gets is unwarranted. He does look very much like a world chamion compared to Deletraz. To be fair, Yamamoto actually has shown flashes of talent. At Super Aguri in 2006, it was well known that the team had performed very strongly at their last race of the season in Brazil. Takuma Sato had finished a Super 10th, with 9th fastest race lap! A much talked about result. What was less known that day was that Yamamoto set the 7th fastest race lap.

He actually either outqualified Senna or came close to doing so a fair few times. That compared well with his 2007 performances at Spyker when he failed to outqualify Adrian Sutil (also in his first season) once. Then again, Sutil wasn't catching up from an unbelievable 11 year career gap! Yamamoto's performances against Senna seemed to reflect well on him, but also badly against Senna in equal measures. Sakon showed particularly well at Korea.

The final driver to make an appearance for Hispania was Christian Klien. On 3 occasions the Austrian driver, unceremoniously dumped by the Red Bull team in 2006, took to the driving seat. The unfancied driver caused a bit of a stir by demolishing Senna at Singapore before then outperforming him in Brazil (in qualifying at least). At the time Klien was dropped in 2006, David Coulthard had spoke publicly, criticising the Red Bull team for not handling Klien's career well and not giving him enough of a chance. It's not very often David criticises his team like that. In truth, Klien's 2006 was surely better than it looked. His qualifying performances and fastest race lap comparisons with Coulthard seemed to say so. Consider also, that had he avoided a silly accident towards the end of the Monaco Grand Prix that year, it would have been he, rather than Coulthard, who would have scored Red Bull's first ever podium (and he would have got to wear the Superman cape).

Towards the end of the season, flying in the face of some expert predictions that they will not be around in 2011, Hispania announced a technical link-up with Williams, who will apparently supply them with gearboxes and stuff (not sure what exactly!). That looks promising. Also, a collaboration with Toyota was announced as the huge firm seems to desire to have an involvement in F1 in some form, rather than be completely out of it. But now that deal has been broken off, as Toyota complained that Hispania hasn't paid them any money. That doesn't look so promising.

Well it remains to be seen what will become of this team. They did not disgrace themselves. Their budget was barely enough to get to all the races, let alone develop the car. Lets hop the Williams link-up will help their stock rise a bit and they can get some sponsorship. It would be a shame to lose this team again so soon as they add more variety to F1 - and what's more, 2 extra precious spaces for
29/7/2012 06:58:39 pm

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