HRT miss first race but avoid last place

2011 F1 season review

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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33 comments on HRT miss first race but avoid last place

  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 6th December 2011, 9:45

    LOL @keithcollantine

    It was a small price to pay for briefly getting HRT closer to the leaders than ever before.

    This bowling alley move featured in the BBC season edit as well, and I would be supprised if it wouldn’t make it into the FOM DVD of the 2011 season as well, so I guess that was really cheaply earned coverage!

  2. ScuderiaVincero (@scuderiavincero) said on 6th December 2011, 9:54

    It was a small price to pay for briefly getting HRT closer to the leaders than ever before.

    This certainly made my day Keith! It was certainly much further ahead than Team Lotus ever managed! :D

  3. SouthPawRacer (@southpawracer) said on 6th December 2011, 10:18

    It was a small price to pay for briefly getting HRT closer to the leaders than ever before.

    …I see what you did there. ;)

    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.

    This really grinds my gears. As much as I want the back-of-the-grid teams to get a chance to start races, what’s the point of the 107% rule if it is hardly ever enforced?

    • George (@george) said on 6th December 2011, 18:14

      Think we discussed this to death earlier in the season, it’s basically a failsafe to stop teams racing if they’re deemed dangerously slow (or just dangerous). It’s not like failing to qualify in the 80s/90s which was to cap the number of cars on the grid.

      In other words it’s not there as a sporting challenge but rather to prevent accidents and protect the sport’s image, hence a little flexability.

  4. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 6th December 2011, 10:21

    HRT are survivors, and for that alone they get my credit.

    Unlike some others, I think more teams is better for F1. Especially with the lack of testing, the low tier teams provide a place for youngsters to gain experience and make sure they’re noticed by the big teams.

    However, there’s one thing I don’t get:

    Their pit stops were often up to a second slower than their closest rivals’, meaning places were regularly lost during tyre changes.

    If I were in that position, without money, almost without new parts, I would spend my time on practising pit stops over and over. You never know when a safetycar, or some bad luck for others, makes those seconds very valuable.

    And I see another benefit as well: If you can’t motivate your crew by beating others on track, you can take pride in beating them in the pits. I mean those mechanics probably can’t do too much in the design of the car, but being fast in the pits is within their circle of influence.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 6th December 2011, 16:13

      @verstappen you can also say the opposite. There’s no need to hurry and be at risk of making a mistake if there’s no one to challenge for positions. Look at what happened to Glock in Brazil, with the wheel falling off, for which the team got fined.

      Surely the HRT directors urged their mechanics to make sure to fasten the tyres properly because they don’t have much money to pay the fines if something goes wrong! :P

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 6th December 2011, 21:13

      @Fer-no65, I see your point, but what @Verstappen says makes sense to me: these mechanics are in a back grid team, but there is no doubt they too are racing enthusiasts, and as such I would think that getting your pit-stops tuned to be faster than, at least, Team Lotus (Caterham to be), would be a major boost.

      Especially since if you ever want to move up the grid, you have to get those pit-stops nailed anyway.

      And since a single good finish is all it takes until you and the competition fight for points, those stops really might be the thing that gives you a 11th, or even 10th spot in the WDC in a weird race.

      • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 6th December 2011, 23:52

        I don’t think faster pit stops are the priority within the teams at the back of the grid, really.

        I undestand verstappen’s point, but I don’t think it’s a very big deal after all.

  5. Girts (@girts) said on 6th December 2011, 10:22

    I guess Liuzzi made a lot of good starts this season so he often got ahead of Virgins but couldn’t stay there because of the slow pitstops. It would also be interesting to know how many times the HRTs lost the chance to stay ahead of their closest rivals just because the Virgins overtook them using DRS.

    Anyway, good luck to HRT, I hope they manage to survive, reduce the gap to the leaders and put up a good fight against Marussia in 2012.

  6. MahavirShah (@mahavirshah) said on 6th December 2011, 10:39

    HRT need to show improvement in 2012. Nothing grand but making the odd Q2 or at least competing for it. They have had 2 years to get their act together and it is time for them to show their long term commitment to F1. Hopefully the development of the 2012 car will be more organised and the car itself good.

  7. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th December 2011, 11:59

    I think this season has certainly been an improvement for HRT. Slow but steady. Their reliability has improved considerably from memory. I was sick of seeing Liuzzi in 2010 and 2011 has really been no better. I like the guy but I think even HRT were scraping the barrel with him. Measuring him against Karthikeyan didn’t get any better. Pretty dreadful. So far off the pace of his team mate it’s not even funny. Ricciardo has provided a level of excitement and I believe he’s delivered as well as he could do. I think their highlight was probably the Indian GP for Karthikeyan, he actually had a decent race so I was happy for him and the team.

    I’m liking how patriotic the team are getting. Signing a 2 year deal with De La Rosa is a step in the right direction for them. He may not be the best but it’s a positive sign that the team feel they are in a position to offer out relatively long-term contracts.

    Looking forward to seeing them in testing, as promised.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 6th December 2011, 16:29

      @AndrewTanner

      I was sick of seeing Liuzzi in 2010 and 2011 has really been no better.

      Ricciardo has provided a level of excitement and I believe he’s delivered as well as he could do.

      Liuzzi often beat Ricciardo, also in the final races, when the two were evenly matched. Sure, Daniel was a rookie, but Tonio also had terrible luck in the second part of the season. I don’t know how two drivers so closely matched can be overrated (Ricciardo) and underrated (Liuzzi). I think the first is better, but not so much to distinguish a World Champion from a pay driver, not for now at least.

      I’m liking how patriotic the team are getting.

      I am not (sorry to disagree again!). They should sign drivers based on their talent, not nationality, which in my opinion is worse than signing drivers for money. They aren’t signing a driver with money (=sponsors), but someone who might get sponsors thanks to his country of origin. De la Rosa is surely an expert driver, but when I see how they are desperate to keep ties with Clos, who has seldomly excelled in GP2, I feel they are exaggerated.
      I’m glad they are thinking ahead and not waiting the final moments before taking such important decisions, though, and I as well am looking forward to seeing them next year, hopefully battling against Marussia.

    • I’m not a big fan of patriotism either but it’s probably a cynical and shrew way to market the team and attract more sponsors. I don’t like it but to survive I understand it.

  8. I really wish HRT well. I really didn’t think they’d stick it out this long and to beat Virgin this year I think was mighty impressive as I really expected Virgin to improve and worried HRT would be left behind. It looks like HRT could at least stick it out for a while but I hope they make some progress too. With the lack of testing I have absolute respect for the new teams to have to design an F1 car from scratch because catching up must be one hell of a mountain to climb.

  9. realracer (@realracer) said on 6th December 2011, 12:27

    What people don’t realise is that teams like Toro Rosso nee Minardi and Force India nee Jordan, where once at the same point as HRT , I think that they have been criticised more than they deserve, now if there is a team to be criticized then that is Virgin oh wait their British so that’s unlikely.

    • TheBrav3 said on 6th December 2011, 16:36

      You must not have seen any of my posts i’ve been criticising virgin since hrt started out qualifying them at turkey spain and canada with an almost identical car to last years lol.

  10. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 6th December 2011, 12:29

    The only thing i can really notice about the HRT this year is their reliability, it’s been miles better than last year so that’s a massive step in the right direction. Maybe in-season development will happen in 2012..but who knows..

    Will HRT change their name to the Spanish National Team next season or will they remain as HRT?

  11. f1alex (@f1alex) said on 6th December 2011, 15:51

    I love the rhyming title! :P

  12. Mahir C said on 6th December 2011, 17:41

    I rate them higher than Virgin this year. Last year Virgin was closer to Lotus on pace while HRt was nowhere. Virgin had a winter full of testing, HRT barely made it to the 1st race yet pacewise they were very similar to Virgin with one HRT out qualifying one Virgin car.

  13. bosyber (@bosyber) said on 6th December 2011, 21:19

    I do think HRT look more serious and focussed now than last year, when we didn’t know if they’d live through the winter. Reliability was there, the car was a lot less far off the pace, and they even had (working!) updates. If they can actually design a really new car for next year, I’m really looking forward to see how they keep it up next year.

    Hard work, Racing against Virgin and the cars in front lapping, Tough field to reach but still making progress, they might even get there some time (2014 and Cosworth does the job superbly???)

  14. dopey115 (@dopey115) said on 6th December 2011, 23:09

    Hi Keith, sorry to highlight an error but i recall the accident in Monza 2011 for Liuzzi being similar to his crash in 2010 at Shanghai, and not Sepang as stated…

  15. TED BELL said on 7th December 2011, 0:18

    I will measure their success by doing away with the ridiculous paint job for starters. Please hire me to provide them with a paint scheme that would attract sponsors and not look like a carnival ride.

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