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Sunday, November 21, 2010
Synopsis: This was the debut of the HRT F1 team, rescued from the ashes of the Campos Meta entry after an 11th hour takeover by José Ramón Carabante. One of the three new entries for the 2010 season, the Colin Kolles-run squad is the first Spanish team in F1. Little was expected from the new teams this year, and on that count HRT delivered.
Highlight: Making the grid? Remaining there for the whole season? Both were accomplishments. Among the new teams, HRT had neither Branson’s money or the organization of the Lotus entry, but Kolles’ ability to find money when needed kept the hounds at bay during the season. Several times both cars reached the finish, though several laps off the pace.
Lowlight: The lack of funding meant no development on a woefully inadequate Dallara-designed car. Musical chairs among the drivers, including heavy use of an equally inadequate Sakon Yamamoto, meant little continuity. But the worst came shortly after the close of the season, when a partnership with Toyota Motorsport was canceled due to lack of payment, despite the addition of former Telefónica chief executive officer Juan Villalonga to the team.
- Bruno Senna was announced when the team was still run by Campos. Hopes that the Senna name would draw sponsorship to the team fell short of expectations. Was replaced for the British Grand Prix by Yamamoto, but was back behind the wheel for the rest of the season. Kolles blamed Senna’s performance for the drop, but more likely it was Yamamoto’s funding and Chandhok’s contract situation that axed Senna for the race. In a bad car, Senna was adequate, but has yet to show the promise of his name.
- Karun Chandhok was announced as the second driver after the takeover. India’s second F1 driver suffered a number of technical failures prior to being dropped for Yamamoto from Germany on. It’s difficult to say if he got a fair shake. Chandhok has had the support of Bernie Ecclestone in the past, who would surly like to see an Indian driver racing for an Indian team for the new Indian Grand Prix. If he is to get a seat at Force India, he’ll have to do it on merit, Vijay Mallya seems to favor competitive drivers over nationality. Otherwise, Narain Karthikeyan would still be in F1.
- Sakon Yamamoto was officially signed to develop the car. Whether that was for his technical knowledge from his testing days or for developmental funding is an interesting discussion. Yamamoto was consistently off the pace of his teammate, to the point of being lapped in Hungary. Replaced by Christian Klien in Singapore due officially to food poisoning. He returned for Japan and Korea, and then was replaced by Klien for the rest of the season.
- Christian Klien was signed as a reserve driver and made his team debut on Friday in Germany. He made his race return in Singapore, where he bettered Senna by a second in qualifying. He raced the final two races of the season for Yamamoto. While data is limited, over the course of the three races, the veteran seemed by and far to be the best of HRT’s 2010 drivers. Still, it is doubtful the ex-Jaguar man did anything to prolong his F1 career.
A look ahead: Of all the teams on the grid, HRT seeems te most likely to fall by the wayside. Making it through 2010 was an accomplishment, just ask USF1. But a lack of funds, a difficult era to locate sponsorship, and burning bridges with not one, but two organizations that could build a car would certainly seem to have the team on its back foot. A deal with Williams to do the back end of the car seems like a step in the right direction, and could result in further cooperation over drivers. But without a car, it could all be moot. Kolles is used to keeping underfunded teams alive, so HRT can’t be completely counted out, but the odds look long. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six
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