The only way is up - HRTs mid-season report 13 Aug 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, theres 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)
Two years ago the newly-launched HRT (and the teams 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 wasnt 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 werent allowed to race. It was a bitter blow, but HRT picked themselves up and have not missed a Sunday since. Theres no hiding the fact that the F112s 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.
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 its yet to bear fruit, there is now room for this fledgling teams 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.
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 hasnt 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, hes 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 teams 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: Its 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.
For FORMULA 1 and F1 team merchandise, click here.