Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT, Montreal, 2011

HRT miss first race but avoid last place

2011 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT, Montreal, 2011
13th for Liuzzi in Montreal kept HRT out of last place

HRT got their second year in F1 off to an inauspicious start – albeit a familiar one.

Their new car failed to appear in testing, and was run for the first time in practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

Despite failing to qualify for the first race, they ended the season in front of Virgin. In a similar situation to last year, HRT should consider themselves rather fortunate to have avoided finishing last in the championship.

Having managed just half-a-dozen laps before qualifiyng, Vitantonio Liuzzi fell 1.7 second short of beating the 107% target time in Q1. Narain Karthikeyan was even further away and neither was allowed to start.

HRT team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 13 (1)
Best grid position (number) 20 (2)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 11 (8/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,844 (81.38%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2010) 11th (11th)
Championship points (2010) 0 (0)
Pit stop performance ranking 12th

However they never fell victim to the 107% rule again during the season – on other occasions when they fell short of the target they were granted dispensations to start the race.

While they were usually out-paced by rivals Virgin, a single 13th place for Liuzzi in Canada was enough to avoid them claiming the wooden spoon.

Liuzzi was aided by something the team had little of last season – new components on his F111, including a revised exhaust and rear wing.

His team mate for the first half of the season was Narain Karthikeyan, who made a surprise return to F1 after a five-year absence with the team. However his most significant distinction all year was becoming the first F1 driver ever to finish a race in 24th place, when the entire field was classified in the European Grand Prix.

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Buddh International Circuit
Karthikeyan made a one-off return for his home race

Unlike his team mate or his successor Daniel Ricciardo, Karthikeyan never managed to bring his car home in front of one of the Virgins, HRT’s closest rivals throughout 2011.

The HRT drivers were usually on a hiding to nothing when it came to racing other drivers for position. Their pit stops were often up to a second slower than their closest rivals’, meaning places were regularly lost during tyre changes.

Ricciardo was parachuted in as Red Bull wanted to give their latest Development Driver some F1 seat time and, with no room at Toro Rosso and no testing opportunities available, this was the best way to do it.

He made clear progress throughout the second half of the season with the team. In his third start he finished in front of Jerome D’Ambrosio, and he repeated the feat in Korea.

Mark Webber, Daniel Ricciardo, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011
Red Bull Development Driver Daniel Ricciardo joined the team mid-season

Predictably, Karthikeyan made a one-off return for his home Grand Prix having landed some sponsorship. He finished ahead of Ricciardo, but only after his team mate was badly delayed in the pits.

The car was was returned to Liuzzi who had a patchy second half of the year. His first lap crash at Monza – which was rather similar to his accident at Shanghai last year – earned him surely the most meaningless penalty of the season.

The stewards docked him five places on the grid for the following race – this for a driver who seldom qualified better than the back two rows. It was a small price to pay for briefly getting HRT closer to the leaders than ever before.

Liuzzi suffered a dreadful weekend in Suzuka with persistent car problems, managing just 14 laps before the start of the race.

The lack of races with sufficiently low attrition for Virgin to take 13th place meant HRT stayed safe from them in the constructors’ championship.

However, in contrast to the 11th-hour signing of Liuzzi this year (two days before the season was originally scheduled to begin), the early announcement of Pedro de la Rosa’s two-year contract shows the team’ thinking is more long-term than before.

Will the arrival of Thesan Capital spur them on to better things next year?

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Images ?? Motioncompany