The Demise of HRT: Joining the Ranks of so Many Minnows Before Them
Had HRT entered Formula 1 20 years ago, they would have fit in a lot better than they did over their three-season life, which recently ended. The late '80s and early '90s were part of the golden age for teams with more optimism than cash. Teams such as Life, Coloni, Pacific, Eurobrun, Simtek, AGS and Forti all attempted to crack the Formula 1 world with nothing more than a few quid and enthusiasm, but none of them ever came close.
HRT had a particularly turbulent three years in the sport and once again demonstrated that you have to have money before being able to challenge at the top in today's racing. Mercedes and Toyota have demonstrated that money on its own can't get you titles, but you require at least some money or you will never move up the grid at all.
The team was granted entry to Formula 1 in 2010 along with Lotus (now Caterham), Manor Motorsport (Later Virgin and now Marussia) and the stillborn USF1. The team was originally called Campos Meta and was owned by Adrian Campos, but the team soon fell into financial difficulty before a last-minute deal saw the team bought out by Jose Ramon Carabante and Campos leaving the team to be replaced by Colin Kolles, The team was rebranded as Hispania Racing with Bruno Senna and Karun Chandok signed to drive the Dallara designed car.
The car, named the F110, was late in being completed and only saw its first action in practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix with Senna setting a time that would have been respectable in a GP2 car. The car was worked on throughout the weekend with Senna getting with nine seconds of the fastest in qualifying and Chandok 10. Both cars retired in the race.
After the inauspicious start, the team got to work maximising their car, but there was no development of the car at all. They just had to maximise what they had and in truth, did a respectable job. On a good day they could beat the Virgin of Di Grassi and get close to the other Virgin of Timo Glock. However, teams that are running low on funds can have something of a revolving-door policy when it comes to drivers and Hispania were no different
At Silverstone, Bruno Senna was dropped for disciplinary reasons, with Sakon Yamamoto taking the seat. Senna returned for the German Grand Prix, but Chandok was dumped to allow Yamamoto to remain with the team. The fact that Yamamoto had more money was almost certainly the only reason why he took over. Yamamoto then ran out of money towards the end of the season and was replaced for the final two races (as well as Singapore when Sakon was ill) by Christian Klien.
Out of all the drivers, Klien got the most out of the car despite the car being, in his own words, "not quite on F1 standard." Senna tried too hard and seemed wild behind the wheel, whereas Chandok looked solid and dependable and Yamamoto looked like he wasn't up to the job. They managed to beat Virgin in the Constructors', but in truth they were the weakest team in Formula 1.
In 2011, the car, yet again, didn't get a run out until the first race of the season, and with the return of the 107-percent rule, things looked bleak. Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan were signed to drive, and unsurprisingly, neither man managed to qualify the F111. In their defense, they did not have their new front wing for the season so they were using the previous season's. In truth, the F111 was nothing more than a slightly developed version of the previous season's car, but did have an excellent paint scheme.
This season was more settled on the driver front with Liuzzi completing the season and Karthikeyan and Daniel Ricciardo sharing driving duties in the other machine. Ricciardo was brought in to gain experience as he looked for a full-time drive for the following season. I highly suspect Red Bull threw Hispania a few dollars to give Ricciardo the seat and Hispania were only too happy to oblige.
Much like the previous season, they were the slowest cars but could occasionally have a go at the Virgin cars. Yet again they managed to beat Virgin in the championship, but once more it was clear that they were the weakest team in Formula 1.
In some ways 2012 was almost a repeat of 2011. The car was nothing more than an updated version of the car the year before and wasn't ready until the last second. Once again they failed to qualify the first race of the season, but did manage to qualify on a few occasions. Karthikeyan was once again behind the wheel, this time accompanied by Pedro De La Rosa. Choosing De La Rosa had to do with their aim to create an all-Spanish team, and Alonso was probably a bit too expensive for them. In the other car, Karthikeyan was an out-and-out pay driver.
There was no driver merry-go-round this time, with both guys completing the season and De La Rosa normally being faster than Karthikeyan. They normally scraped through into the race and were very close to failing to qualify on more than one occasion. De La Rosa was again able to take the fight to the Marussias. but this was very rare.
Karthikeyan got in the way on a few occasions during the races, and the cars' brakes seemed to fail rather too regularly for comfort. A one-off brake failure is understandable, but HRT had a few occasions where the brakes stopped working. Whether this was due to them overheating, being used after their expiry or some other reason, I don't know, but in F1, brake failure is incredibly dangerous.
Finally, they finished bottom in the Constructors' Championship, and by the end of the season, most people seemed to know that HRT was doomed unless some major new investment came in.
That investment has not come forward, and HRT have been left off of the 2013 entry list. I have always had a soft spot for the minnows of F1. Whilst I was growing up I was a Ferrari fan first and Minardi/Super Aguri fan second. However, by the end, with a car that had brakes that were likely to fail, they were mobile chicanes the couldn't stop. For that reason, I am not upset that they are no longer in the sport.
R.I.P HRT, 2010-2012
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