HRT’s failure is a small but significant loss for F1

2012 F1 season review

Pedro de la Rosa, Interlagos, HRT, 2012

Of the three teams which made their Formula One debuts in 2010, HRT always seemed to have the shakiest grip on survival.

As the 2011 season ended the team lost technical director Geoff Willis to Mercedes, followed shortly by team principal Colin Kolles, amid reports over concerns about the amount of money new owners Thesan Capital were putting into the team.

These were borne out when Thesan put the team up for sale last month. But their lack of an entry for 2013 makes their value to a potential buyer doubtful.

HRT team stats 2012

Best race result (number) 15 (1)
Best grid position (number) 20 (4)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 11 (7/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,825 (76.55%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2011) 12 (11)
Championship points (2011) 0 (0)
Pit stop performance ranking 12

The team soldiered on in the meantime using an updated version of its previous car, which itself was based on the chassis Dallara created for them in 2009.

New technical director Tony Cuquerella did what he could but with limited funds updates were rare and the team felt the F112 had much untapped potential. Plans to use a Williams-supplied KERS were scrapped.

As was the case last year, the team failed to qualify in Melbourne having not run in pre-season testing, but reached the grid in every other race.

They briefly got on terms with Marussia as the European season began but the shortage of funds told as the season went on.

The vastly inexperienced Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua appeared in the car during a few practice sessions, even as the team tried to acclimatise to the new Circuit of the Americas – something which was clearly not being done for performance reasons.

Late in the year there were worrying rumours about the state of the teams’ parts and claims some components were being used beyond their intended lifespan. Pedro de la Rosa firmly denied such claims when asked in America.

“We might be modest, we are small and we are what we are,” he said. “We are a professional Formula One team and for sure when we start running it’s because the car is safe. I’m experienced enough too, you know, I would never jump into an unsafe car because of parts being too old. So no, the answer is, the car is slow but it’s safe.”

Questions were asked following a series of failures late in the year suffered by Narain Karthikeyan in Korea (brakes), de la Rosa in India (brakes again) and Karthikeyan in Abu Dhabi (hydraulics).

The disappearance of HRT from next year’s F1 entry list raises the prospect of there being just 22 cars on the grid next year.

A loss for Formula One

Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, Buddh International Circuit, 2012While no one would pretend they were a particularly competitive outfit during their three years in F1, the loss of them amounts to a shrinking of the Formula One universe which we should be concerned about.

One fewer team means two fewer drivers, and reduces the number of countries whose representatives appear in the sport. If nothing else, HRT’s presence ensured India had a home driver on the grid for its first two world championship races.

The Formula One ecosystem has lost one of its minnows. While most attention is understandably focused on the teams at the front, the importance of a well-filled grid for the health of the sport shouldn’t be overlooked. In the ongoing debate over the quality of racing in F1, the simple fact that if there are more cars on the track there will be more going on tends to get overlooked.

For proof of that, consider that had Sebastian Vettel not come across Karthikeyan’s HRT in Malaysia and America, the drivers’ championship would not have had the nail-biting down-to-the-wire climax we all enjoyed.

HRT drivers’ 2012 race results

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

AUS MAL CHI BAH SPA MON CAN EUR BRI GER HUN BEL ITA SIN JAP KOR IND ABU UNI BRA
Pedro de la Rosa 21 21 20 19 17 20 21 22 18 18 17 18 17 21 17
Narain Karthikeyan 22 22 21 15 18 21 23 19 20 21 22 18

HRT drivers’ 2012 laps per position

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Pedro de la Rosa 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 12 36 77 77 113 108 222 151 116 12
Narain Karthikeyan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 2 1 1 9 12 18 11 36 118 86 117 234 125 120

2012 F1 season review


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79 comments on HRT’s failure is a small but significant loss for F1

  1. frogster said on 4th December 2012, 18:43

    In all honesty I think HRT did a good job given what tools they had. In every season they never fell significantly behind in the development race relative to the big spending, resource rich front runners. In reality they probably kept up with them or slightly “out developed ” them. Yes they were starting from a low baseline, but still it’s some achievement to keep up with the brilliance of Newey, the resources of McLaren and the cash of Ferrari.

    Sad to see them go. F1 needs the minnows.

  2. Suave (@suave) said on 4th December 2012, 19:21

    Am I safe to assume that next year Q1 and Q2 will now eliminate the slowest 6 cars from each session? Similar to how Q1 and Q2 eliminated the slowest 5 in 2010.

  3. Hairs (@hairs) said on 4th December 2012, 20:41

    The Formula One ecosystem has lost one of its minnows. While most attention is understandably focused on the teams at the front, the importance of a well-filled grid for the health of the sport shouldn’t be overlooked. In the ongoing debate over the quality of racing in F1, the simple fact that if there are more cars on the track there will be more going on tends to get overlooked.

    A well filled grid. A grid where the last 4 teams are little more than placeholders to make up the numbers is not a healthy grid. Replacing HRT with another ill-funded minnow team won’t suddenly make for interesting racing. Red Bull run with a budget supposedly nudging 300 million. McLaren and Ferrari are the next closest, but even they are losing out to Red Bull’s cashflow and Newey’s intuition. Mercedes can barely make themselves competitive, never mind the rest of the field.

    I appreciate the sentiments of the article, but I simply can’t agree with them in this case.

    HRT were not a minnow team. A minnow team is one that struggles but makes progress. HRT never made progress, and they never had a competent organisation to run them. They were a call back to the days when 30 teams would turn up to a race weekend, and 20 would fail to pre-qualify, because their cars were 4 year old customer cars held together with tape and hope, driven by guys who put the phrase “pay driver” to shame. It all sounds very romantic until you remember that said car still has the power to kill.

    For proof of that, consider that had Sebastian Vettel not come across Karthikeyan’s HRT in Malaysia and America, the drivers’ championship would not have had the nail-biting down-to-the-wire climax we all enjoyed.

    I’m sorry, but this is patently not true. Vettel’s alternator failure in Valencia, and Alonso’s two first corner crashes had more of an impact on the championship than anything HRT did by holding him up for a second or two.

    Come to that, McLaren’s failures robbed Hamilton of a second title this year. You’re clutching at straws here, I’m afraid to say Keith. If you want a well-filled, healthy grid, we need more Williams and Force Indias. Teams with reasonable facilities and reasonable cashflow. Not another HRT, with no funding, and no hope, clogging up the back of the field to little purpose.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th December 2012, 21:38

      @hairs

      If you want a well-filled, healthy grid, we need more Williams and Force Indias. Teams with reasonable facilities and reasonable cashflow. Not another HRT, with no funding, and no hope, clogging up the back of the field to little purpose.

      I don’t disagree with any of that. But there’s no point complaining that HRT failed to fulfil that desire.

      There was already one spare place on the grid this year and did any of your miraculous, well-funded, competitive teams appeared to fill it? No.

      And now the grid is getting even thinner. That reflects on the cost of competing on F1, and that is what we should confront rather than pretending HRT were incompetent cheapskates.

      • Hairs (@hairs) said on 4th December 2012, 22:25

        @Keithcollantine

        You’re right, no team did appear to fill it. That means that dreams of a competitive grid are still far off. Losing HRT hasn’t robbed us of any part of a competitive grid, and the sport isn’t any poorer without them.

        F1 has a funding problem, in fact all motorsports have a funding problem. That’s what confuses me about calls for more teams, more formulae, more drivers, more more more. There is no money to fund it anymore. The only global, successful, profitable formula only ever has, and had, about 3 teams vying to win, at any point in its history. The team names have changed over the years, but not the economics.

        This is a technology driven sport, and that means having deep pockets gives you an automatic advantage. It always will. Whether there are 7 teams behind, or 10, makes no odds. So while i agree a full grid would be nice, and a grid of three teams would be a joke, I have no idea why there is a requirement for 12. It’s not some magic number. We’ll have 11 next year, one of which is red bulls’ lackey squad and thus not much of a real team either.

        Losing HRT isn’t going to affect the quality of the races or the results of the championship.

      • Hairs (@hairs) said on 4th December 2012, 22:40

        As to whether or not they were incompetent cheapskates, i think we have to separate the owners and management from the workers.

        Campos Meta and Team USA were disorganised shambles while they were still applying for the licence. Team USA folded before the season, Campos went into melt down and barely clung on, and failed to even get a car into winter testing. Twice they turned up to the first race of the season with a car that had never turned a wheel. They never found sponsors, they had as many changes of management as they did seasons, and they got nothing done.

        Imagine I turned up to the Olympics and claimed I was a pole vaulter. The conversation would go like this:
        q: Have you got a pole? No. Have you qualified? No. Have you trained? No. Have you ever jumped before? No. Are you going to get a pole? No. Are you going to do any training? No.

        That’s what Hrt’s management have been doing since 2009. Complaining about the loss of the budget cap doesn’t help either. Caterham have struggled. Virgin have struggled. HRT have just sat there.

  4. Zagal (@zagal) said on 4th December 2012, 21:36

    @keithcollantine The name of the technical director is Tony Cuquerella (not Cuqurella). He has become famous to F1 followers here in Spain because in the Spanish TV coverage to F1 races there was a section on F1 technology and Cuquerella was the one offering expert insight to F1 noobs like me. A good contribution from HRT and Cuquerella to F1 that we fans will be missing next year.

  5. buzzzz (@) said on 5th December 2012, 2:18

    It’s to bad they couldn’t get the support they needed, it is an expensive sport, infact it’s gotten too expensive to be realistic. They you go, another one kicked to the curb!

  6. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 5th December 2012, 3:15

    Am sorry if I been a bit harsh but to be very honest a team that is match by pace GP2 cars don’t deserve an F1 slot,yeah it represents countries but in the last few races of 2012 they struggle very badly in terms of money.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th December 2012, 10:01

      @wasif1

      a team that is match by pace GP2 cars don’t deserve an F1 slot

      HRT were on average almost four seconds per lap quicker than the GP2 pole sitter based on a comparison of dry qualifying sessions this year:

      Malaysia: HRT 2.5 seconds quicker
      Bahrain: HRT 3.4 seconds quicker
      Spain: HRT 3.1 seconds quicker
      Monaco: HRT 3.1 seconds quicker
      Europe: HRT 5.2 seconds quicker
      Hungary: HRT 3.0 seconds quicker
      Italy: HRT 4.4 seconds quicker
      Singapore: HRT 7.1 seconds quicker

      • andae23 (@andae23) said on 5th December 2012, 10:38

        That would have been painful for HRT: complaining that Dallara had given them a piece of rubbish, and then building their won car that is slower than a 2 year old GP2 Dallara. Good thing this isn’t the case.

        HRT was practically a project that was doomed to fail. With unsufficient funds, the team tried to make the best of it and that they lasted for three whole seasons is an accomplishment on its own.

  7. steco (@steco) said on 5th December 2012, 7:42

    thats good news, they were driving danger to other drivers apart from themselves of course… HRT was total disaster from start till end. thank god not to see them again

  8. timtoo (@timtoo) said on 5th December 2012, 8:07

    what do you think if the ‘new’ (got to stop calling them that) teams were allowed an additional driver test day, whereby as a sign of sportsmanship, World Championship winning drivers/teams would test their cars, to give real advice on where the car is, what to and what not to develop.

    Back when Renault had their famous launch control – wasn’t there some restriction on testing for the top of the grid teams, and lower down teams had an extra session on Thus/Friday or something?

    I would love to see what Alonso or Ham could do with them (in my opinion they seem to be able to drive a car to the edge of its limits and a bit beyond more so than the other drivers).

  9. Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 5th December 2012, 8:19

    I never had much hope of HRT improving and a hopless team is no fun to watch. Hopefully this will have some positive consequences in that it brings focus to the fact that we’re short a team now. I would like to see two new teams, hopefully with some better backing and ambition. After all the experience we got from HRT failing is not that its impossible to succeed in F1, just that they will have to try harder.

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 10th December 2012, 22:00

    It’s a bit of a double-edged sword this situation in my opinion. On the one hand, it is sad to see HRT leave and it would be nice to see the whole universe of F1 being a bit more inviting for them but then again, this is not a charity and shouldn’t be treated as one. You get little sympathy in football where this is just as great a divide with money. No one is forced to compete in F1 and we all know the risks. Joining the sport a midst the worst financial disaster in recent history then you’ve got to expect things will be extremely difficult.

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