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“And then there were eleven”

December 3, 2012

The news from the weekend that HRT were not to compete in the Formula One World Championship next year did not come as a surprise.

It is a desperately sad end game for a team that somehow pulled bunny rabbits from hats numerous times during their three-year existence in order to compete.

Through each of those seasons, the story was invariably the same – miles off the pace or DNQ-ing at the season opener, to rapid improvement, plateauing as the season drew to a close.

While their 2010 birth proved a trying experience throughout, come the end of 2011, the little Spanish squad were often matching fellow backmarkers Marussia (then known as Virgin).
Apart from two blips at the 2011 and ’12 Australian Grands Prix, HRT were generally well inside the dreaded 107% cut-off and often ran competently during the races themselves.

A standard race might see them lapped twice, or maybe three times, but they were rarely the menace that some observers labelled them.
Make no mistake; this was not a squad lapping ten seconds off the pace, however they rooted to the rear of the field – this had so much to do with the lack of aerodynamic prowess, especially around their front end.
It was an issue the team never solved throughout their tenure in F1 and it made genuine progress impossible. There were upgrades this year – new floor, front and rear section – but these improvements merely meant they were not falling further behind rather than catching up.

The onboards told the most telling story. Constant chopping at the steering and lifting off in order to take high speed bends made the HRT machines seem outlandish at a time when Adrian Newey’s designs carved their way through similar turns with relative ease.
None of the team’s offerings throughout the three years seemed to offer anything in the way of a grippy front end. One can only admire Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan – and their former counterparts – for driving the wheels off cars that were clearly streets behind the front of the field.

In the garage, every session was an epic encounter. Understaffed and underfunded, the mechanics would breathlessly get their respective drivers out on track for each session, despite the frantic nature of their situation. There are some very good people in that team who have been let go – right now, that’s extremely harsh.

Basing the team in Spain in the midst of one of the worst financial crises was probably not the wisest of moves; however it must be noted that running a team from middle-England is no guarantee of success, as the likes of Marussia and Caterham have discovered.
Indeed Marussia reported a loss of approximately £49 million in 2011 at the end of October – a staggering figure when one considers the gains from the sport are supposedly quite minor in comparison {note 1}.

At the same time, those who decry HRT as “the worst team eva!!{note 2} have probably not been watching motorsport for very long. If running a Formula One team was as easy as some make out, I dare say HRT would probably still in around to compete in 2013.
HRT were certainly no Life or Andrea Moda by any stretch of the imagination.

The Spanish team did end both 2010 and ’11 second from last in the Constructors’ Championship, due mostly to their impressive reliability at a time when Marussia and Caterham were struggling with hydraulic woes.
Unfortunately HRT’s ability to finish began to fade as early as Canada, when the Spanish squad retired both their drivers before the halfway mark with weakening brakes – a problem that would plague them through the rest of the season.

And then there were eleven…

{note 1}
It is believed Marussia F1 will receive a “mere” £10 million from FOM for finishing 11th in the Constructors’ Championship.

{note 2}
This is why I never visit Formula One forums.

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2 Comments
  1. “HRT were certainly no Life or Andrea Moda by any stretch of the imagination.”

    True. That. I wish people out there would try to have a little more perspective instead of following F1 for 2 years and declaring themselves experts in everything that’s ever happened.

    Anyway, too bad. F1 is ALWAYS more fun when there are teams like HRT out there, just scrapping to make it to the grid for the honor of competing at the sport’s highest level. Here’s hoping we get more like them sometime in the future, even though all signs point to such a thing only happening under cataclysmic circumstances, like all the F1 teams “losing their minds” and agreeing to some sort of solid cost cap. Insanity, I tell you.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      “Here’s hoping we get more like them sometime in the future, even though all signs point to such a thing only happening under cataclysmic circumstances, like all the F1 teams “losing their minds” and agreeing to some sort of solid cost cap…”

      Sadly, an on-paper cost cap would probably achieve very little. Most likely there would be raft of accountants hired, whereby funding for a Formula One team might be legally channelled through “sister programmes” and partner company’s.

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