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The only way is up - HRT's mid-season report 13 Aug 2012

HRT Formula One Team team photograph. (L to R): Dani Clos (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112 Third Driver; Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team; Luis Perez-Sala (ESP) HRT Formula One Team, Team Prinicpal; Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team; Ma Qing Hua (CHN) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112 Development Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team and Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team.,
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 9 June 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team and Luis Perez-Sala (ESP) HRT Formula One Team, Team Prinicpal on the pit wall gantry.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2012

On the face of it, 2012 to date has been a pretty thankless task for HRT. After travelling across four continents and racing in 10 countries, the Spanish minnows can lay claim to zero points and last place in the constructors’ table. But there are no miracles in Formula One racing and this team is a committed work in progress. In only their third year of existence, there’s a hard slog ahead for budget-conscious HRT if they are to make serious inroads into their closest competitors, Marussia, but there are plenty of positives to keep their spirits up...

Season in numbers
Constructors’ standings:
12th, 0 points
Drivers’ standings: Narain Karthikeyan (23rd, 0 points), Pedro de la Rosa (24th, 0 points)
Highest 2012 qualifying: 21st (De la Rosa, Monaco and Canada)
Highest 2012 finish: 15th (Karthikeyan, Monaco)

Car
Two years ago the newly-launched HRT (and the team’s very hastily-signed line-up) debuted less than a week before the opening round. A year ago they were a tad more organised but once again missed pre-season testing. This year the F112 wasn’t ready to test, but did complete some running on a filming day before the Australian opener. It may have been only a small improvement, but for the team it was a notable one. Any smiles, however, were wiped away just days later when both De la Rosa and Karthikeyan failed to make the 107 percent requirement in Melbourne qualifying and weren’t allowed to race. It was a bitter blow, but HRT picked themselves up and have not missed a Sunday since. There’s no hiding the fact that the F112’s progress is slow, with far fewer updates than their bigger rivals, but they are slowly making headway and in Valencia qualified within a respectable 103.5 percent of pole. Reliability-wise they have been pretty watertight, recording just four technical retirements - to put that into context, Mercedes have five.

Team
Stability had previously been a stranger to HRT. In 2010 the team were hastily renamed after starting out as Campos Meta and in the middle of last season new owners came on board. Changes continued ahead of 2012. Team principal Colin Kolles departed and was replaced by former F1 racer Luiz Perez-Sala, whilst their factory has recently relocated to a new base in Madrid. Every move has been made with greater stability in mind and though it’s yet to bear fruit, there is now room for this fledgling team’s roots to spread. The promotion of engineer Toni Cuquerella to technical director, replacing Geoff Willis who left for Mercedes back in September 2011, was widely welcomed, though with a staff believed to number under 100, HRT need to expand further if they are to realize their ambitious goals.

Drivers
After leaving his long-term reserve role at safe haven McLaren, De la Rosa took a chance on HRT this season so he could return to frontline racing. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but the 41 year-old Spaniard is relishing the challenge and enjoys a close bond with compatriot Perez-Sala. Though he may not have come close to beating the Q1 cutoff, he’s resolutely outshone team mate Karthikeyan in qualifying. The Indian, who competed in nine races for the team last season, has generally proved more potent in the races and clinched the team’s highest 2012 finish to date with his 15th place in Monte Carlo.

What HRT say: “(We will) head into the second half of the season full of energy to continue progressing and improving this project.” Luis Perez-Sala, HRT team principal

What we say: It’s all too easy to write off HRT as a team going nowhere, but these underdogs have real fighting spirit.

For more pictures, check out HRT's 2012 team gallery.

For tickets and travel to 2012 FORMULA 1 races, click here.
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