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HRT head into their second F1 season in slightly more promising shape than they were in 12 months ago.
But given that they began their debut season with two rookie drivers and an untested car, that isn’t saying much.
The team have again failed to log any miles with their latest car heading into the new season. They did at least manage a few days’ testing with last year’s car.
Although the final day of testing was postponed to what was originally supposed to by Saturday qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, an inability to get all the necessary parts to the track kept HRT from running their F111 in Barcelona.
At first glance the F111 looks like a car with a lot of backing – look closer and many of the messages are actually designed to entice potential sponsors: “This could be you” and “This is a cool spot”.
One of few actual sponsors is Tata Group, the largest company in India, which explains the presence of Narain Karthikeyan in the team’s driver line-up.
The Indian driver is making a return to F1 after a five-year absence. His debut season for Jordan in 2005 ended with a huge shunt in the Chinese Grand Prix.
After that he was briefly employed by Williams as a test driver, and raced in Superleague Formula last year.
The team only confirmed the identity of Katrhikeyan’s team mate on Wednesday. Vitantonio Liuzzi comes to the team with 63 race starts to his name, making him by far the most experienced driver the team have had.
That experience will be valuable for a team who ended last season missing over one percent of lap time to the next slowest cars.
Given the team’s lack of pre-season testing last year it was remarkable that their better reliability than rivals Virgin allowed them to take 11th place in the constructors’ championship.
With a Williams-sourced gearbox they can expect improved performance and reliability this year. But rivals Virgin have already put over 3,700km on their new car.
For HRT, merely holding on to 11th in the championship would be an achievement for a team that seems likely to continue bringing up the rear in 2011.
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