HRT’s failure is a small but significant loss for F1

2012 F1 season review

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Of the three teams which made their Formula One debuts in 2010, HRT always seemed to have the shakiest grip on survival.

As the 2011 season ended the team lost technical director Geoff Willis to Mercedes, followed shortly by team principal Colin Kolles, amid reports over concerns about the amount of money new owners Thesan Capital were putting into the team.

These were borne out when Thesan put the team up for sale last month. But their lack of an entry for 2013 makes their value to a potential buyer doubtful.

HRT team stats 2012

Best race result (number)15 (1)
Best grid position (number) 20 (4)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 11 (7/4)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,825 (76.55%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2011) 12 (11)
Championship points (2011) 0 (0)
Pit stop performance ranking12

The team soldiered on in the meantime using an updated version of its previous car, which itself was based on the chassis Dallara created for them in 2009.

New technical director Tony Cuquerella did what he could but with limited funds updates were rare and the team felt the F112 had much untapped potential. Plans to use a Williams-supplied KERS were scrapped.

As was the case last year, the team failed to qualify in Melbourne having not run in pre-season testing, but reached the grid in every other race.

They briefly got on terms with Marussia as the European season began but the shortage of funds told as the season went on.

The vastly inexperienced Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua appeared in the car during a few practice sessions, even as the team tried to acclimatise to the new Circuit of the Americas – something which was clearly not being done for performance reasons.

Late in the year there were worrying rumours about the state of the teams’ parts and claims some components were being used beyond their intended lifespan. Pedro de la Rosa firmly denied such claims when asked in America.

“We might be modest, we are small and we are what we are,” he said. “We are a professional Formula One team and for sure when we start running it’s because the car is safe. I’m experienced enough too, you know, I would never jump into an unsafe car because of parts being too old. So no, the answer is, the car is slow but it’s safe.”

Questions were asked following a series of failures late in the year suffered by Narain Karthikeyan in Korea (brakes), de la Rosa in India (brakes again) and Karthikeyan in Abu Dhabi (hydraulics).

The disappearance of HRT from next year’s F1 entry list raises the prospect of there being just 22 cars on the grid next year.

A loss for Formula One

While no one would pretend they were a particularly competitive outfit during their three years in F1, the loss of them amounts to a shrinking of the Formula One universe which we should be concerned about.

One fewer team means two fewer drivers, and reduces the number of countries whose representatives appear in the sport. If nothing else, HRT’s presence ensured India had a home driver on the grid for its first two world championship races.

The Formula One ecosystem has lost one of its minnows. While most attention is understandably focused on the teams at the front, the importance of a well-filled grid for the health of the sport shouldn’t be overlooked. In the ongoing debate over the quality of racing in F1, the simple fact that if there are more cars on the track there will be more going on tends to get overlooked.

For proof of that, consider that had Sebastian Vettel not come across Karthikeyan’s HRT in Malaysia and America, the drivers’ championship would not have had the nail-biting down-to-the-wire climax we all enjoyed.

HRT drivers’ 2012 race results

Pedro de la Rosa212120191720212218181718172117
Narain Karthikeyan222221151821231920212218

HRT drivers’ 2012 laps per position

Pedro de la Rosa000000001003001236777711310822215111612
Narain Karthikeyan000000001621191218113611886117234125120

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Images © HRT F1 Team

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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79 comments on “HRT’s failure is a small but significant loss for F1”

  1. While it is disappointing to lose HRT, I’ve always been a firm believer of quality over quantity on the F1 grid. Some of the better seasons in recent memory had no more than a 20-car grid (2003, 2007, and especially 2008). But more must be done to make sure the right people enter to compete in F1.

    1. @journeyer Yes, we must ensure that the right people get in. But, we can do that only by ensuring F1 remains feasible for small budget teams like HRT. And going by your views, Force India were perenial backmarkers in 2008 and much of 2009, but look where they are now. Responsibility for HRT’s failure lies with the entire F1 fraternity.

      1. @malleshmagdum

        Responsibility for HRT’s failure lies with the entire F1 fraternity.

        Not at all.
        F1 hasn’t changed anything, except with the soon to be entry fee based previous season points, made it easier for small budget teams.
        HRT knew what they were getting into. They knew the prices and the competitiveness and therefore the risk. They took it and it didn’t work out.
        If I go out and buy a TV for 10 grand, then I can’t complain to the TV salesman later in the month when I don’t have money for food.
        Yes the TV could just have been cheaper, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is that I bought something I couldn’t afford.
        HRT could realistically only just about go racing, for the three years that they have been here. They knew that. Its not F1’s fault that they couldn’t get the necessary sponsors to keep the ship sailing.

        1. This is not quite a fair recounting of history. When the 4 new teams came in, they were initially operating under the expectation of a much reduced (I think $40 million was the floated figure) annual budget. The budget talks broke down and the cap was eliminated. Thus the 4 (then 3) small teams had to try to compete, on a shoestring, while the rest of the field had pants and some had a 3-piece suit.

          So in your analogy, it would be agreeing to buy a TV for $500 and then having the price go up to $10,000 after purchase has been agreed upon.

          1. Your analogy is wrong though. There is no requirement to buy 10000$ TVs in f1 nowadays. The 40M limit did not come but that doesn’t mean you absolutely need to spend more than 500$.

            So when you were buying that 500$ TV you were under the impression that the 500$ is the maximum limit you can spend on a TV. Just becuse the limit was lifted does not mean you can not still buy 500$ TV. The costs did not go up.

          2. @socksolid – I was loosely building it off of the prior analogy, so some leeway would have been nice. As it stands, yes, you are correct. There is no absolute necessity to spend the “$10,000,” unless of course you want to fight at the front.

            Even in this most topsy-turvy of years where there were 8 winners and the start of the season was anything goes, look at the end of the year standings. The biggest spenders are right at the front. Money does not guarantee a championship, but a lack of money in the current F1 era guarantees you won’t win one.

            Feel free to point at Brawn as the counterpoint to my argument and I will just say that it is the exception that proves the rule. Even when they had a year of Honda funded development and a trick new diffuser that didn’t get banned, they still almost got reeled back in by Red Bull.

            My point was that Mads said that, “F1 hasn’t changed anything… HRT knew what they were getting into. They knew the prices and the competitiveness and therefore the risk,” and that is not true. They came in thinking that everyone would have similar funding and that they could catch up when in reality that didn’t happen.

            I like that teams develop new technology, and trick ideas, and try to outsmart one another. But the backmarkers cannot catch up in the current environment. They are spending all their money to get within 2 seconds, and the cost for the next second is even higher.

            To your point, the costs did go up. If the top teams had $40 million to develop, they couldn’t chase every rabbit and thus find more and more time and the backmarkers would be that much closer this year, and next, and next. I’m not saying that it should necessarily be that way, but that is what they signed up for.

            So, I appreciate you calling out my second-phase analogy for its flaws, but you missed the point.

          3. @hobo
            I don’t think brawn is any kind of example of low spending. When that car was being built by honda they (honda) spent probably more money than anyone before that. The brawn car is probably the most expensive f1 car ever if you look at development costs. If you want an example from low cost perspective then the lotus from this year is excellent example. Pretty close to the top but not even nearly the budget of the likes of everyone else in top5.

            I wasn’t really calling you out. Your analogy was still fundamentally wrong as it gives the impression that the teams were lured into low cost f1 and when they were in the costs suddenly skyrocketed. That is not the case.

            And it is in my opinion even wrong to suggest that the teams were lured in any way into some low cost 40 million f1. While the 40 million limit concept was being pushed hard by mosley back then you need to remember that the 40m limit was never written in any contract. So while the new teams made their contracts with F1 they knew for a fact that the 40m limit was not yet in the contract but not having the 40m limit was a risk they thought was worth taking.

            As for a team like HRT being able to catch up it needs a solid base first which it never had. When the only focus of the team is to survive and not to improve then how much if anything can be expected from it? Doesn’t matter if there is 40m budget limit or not. HRT even as a concept was never competitive.

          4. Brawn’s in season spending could, I think, be applicable here. Yes, they benefited from Honda spending prior to the season, but per the season costs they had little money. The point being that even then, with massive advantages, a lack of in-season money and therefore a lack of in-season development nearly cost them the title.

            I think we will have to agree to disagree on what happened with the new teams. Yes, they came in without a set-in-stone cap but they came in with the understanding that a cap was being heavily pursued by the then leader/controller of the sport. There is a difference between being told that a $40m/yr is the goal and then having it grow to a $60m/yr cost and having a $40m/yr goal to no restrictions.

            As for having a solid base.. first the team have to design a car either from scratch or as a derivative, neither is easy nor cheap. Then they either have to develop the fundamentals or they have to fund development of all the crazy gadgets that are de rigeur each season (f-duct, moveable front flaps, DRS, blown exhaust, engine maps). They cannot afford to fund both, and they likely cannot afford to properly fund just one. They can’t ever get on a “solid base” because they are being outspent 10:1 or more on a target that is already moving and changing every year.

      2. Force India are a much improved team, granted, but one they made the jump from backmarker to midfield at the same time several more competitive teams i.e. Toyota, BMW, pulled out of the sport…would they have been as competitive in 2010 if Toyota, and a fully funded BMW Sauber team been there, the point system hadn’t changed, and HRT, Virgin and Lotus hadn’t been meandering around at the back?

        1. Force India also didn’t start from scratch…they rose from the remnants of Jordan/Midland/Spyker so it is hardly a fair comparison.

        2. HRT, Virgin and Lotus hadn’t been meandering around at the back

          I’m sorry, but this sentence is rank.

          In a motor race, you are always going to have someone at the back, In F1 this is more than likely going to be the same person every time.

          You need those teams at the back, and you need to value them, otherwise you lose them. And eventually You’ll have no one left.

          1. Exactly…the same way we lost (since I’ve been watching the sport anyway) AGS, Arrows (Footwork), Andrea Moda, Brabham, BMS Scuderia Italia, Coloni, Fondmetal, Forti, Jordan (Midland/Spyker though Force India are essentially the same team), Larrousse, Leyton House/March, Lamborghini, Ligier/Prost, Team Lotus (the proper one! :p), Lola, Minardi, Pacific, Simtek, Super Aguri and Tyrrell. That is just a list of “privateer” teams and doesn’t even include BMW, Honda (BAR) and Toyota or the changes of names to Red Bull (Stewart/Jaguar)!

          2. Great Scott you have them all I do believe from the late 80s to now, well except Zakspeed as well as Toleman/Benneton but that is basically Lotus now so…also Osella.
            Also to others saying HRT is horrid and they didn’t help themselves, why dont you go read about Lola-Mastercard the biggest F1 failure I think.

            Also for others out there, if you want to say too bad. Look at BMW, Toyota, Honda heavy hitters with money, that fell hard. Smart money wins, not money alone. How about FIA setting up some sort of filtering in of engineers so even start up teams have a fighting chance. Rather we still have the same people who were winning or fighting for championships 14-20+ years ago. Fresh understudies and a vast group of engineers that can keep the racing close is what would be nice.

      3. @malleshmagdum I think their 2009 form would’ve carried over to 2010 and beyond, new teams or not. Their much-improved form owes more to the new rules than the new teams.

    2. @journeyer

      I’ve always been a firm believer of quality over quantity on the F1 grid

      I agree, F1 doesn’t exist to make up the numbers.
      I would add 2009 to your list, the field was so close that year (after the Super Aguri year and before the 3 new-teams year, unsure if I’m clear)
      And I can only repeat what you’ve said.

      more must be done to make sure the right people enter to compete in F1.

    3. @journeyer The problem with the Bernie Ecclestone “quality over quantity” argument is where does it end?

      Next year Marussia will probably be the slowest team (assuming they’re still on the grid). Will that mean they should go? And the tenth placed team the year after that?

      There is no new growth when it comes to F1 teams at the moment. The three teams that appeared in 2010 – in circumstances that were a complete one-off – were the only new entrants in the last six seasons.

      So when we’re done killing off the teams that come last, where are the ones to replace them going to come from? Because it isn’t GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5. And three-car teams is a lousy solution too.

      We should see the “quality over quantity” argument for what it is: Ecclestone trying to find a pretext for paying fewer teams. When it comes to the health of the sport, it’s the wrong mantra.

      1. Well Bernie sure prefers quantity over quality.
        That is, taking huge quantities of money out of the sport and giving lousy quality services, broadcasting etc in return. :)

        1. @keithcollantine F1 must also look at attracting sponsorship for smaller teams. In the 80s even the smallest teams had cars filled with sponsor logos. Nobody will enter f1 if it doesnt pay/doesnt help automobile tech

      2. @keithcollantine Actually, 20 is as low as we go. Any lower than that, and 3-car teams might just become a reality.

        But is 24 cars the end-all and be-all of F1? Were we any better off in the late 80s, when cars had to pre-qualify to even get a shot at qualifying? Or in the early 90s, where while we did have 26-car grids, they were a lap down by Lap 15 or something?

        Also, I disagree with Bernie wanting lesser cars. He’d be all for them – he’s just not going to pay for them to hang around at the back. Is the sport too expensive? Sure. But as long as the teams at the front have the money, they will keep spending it to go faster.

        1. 3-car teams might just become a reality.

          I’ll go watch another series then, because that’s my limit.

      3. @keithcollantine As an addendum: do Marussia get paid less because HRT left? I wouldn’t think so, right? HRT’s presence (or lack thereof) doesn’t affect Marussia’s payout. And Keith, you know better than to ask if the 10th fastest team will end up dying or not – they get way more money than 11th or 12th, and are much more likely to survive. I also honestly think Caterham’s funding is much more stable than Minardi’s was in the Stoddart era.

      4. The problem with the Bernie Ecclestone “quality over quantity” argument is where does it end?
        Next year Marussia will probably be the slowest team (assuming they’re still on the grid). Will that mean they should go? And the tenth placed team the year after that?

        To me, it is obvious that there is always going to be “one” team that is potentially slowest. But there is a difference between finishing last in the constructors and finishing last at every single race. If a team has no other capability but to finish last at every GP (or the majority of them), then they should indeed go. Why? Because there is no point. Where does it end? When that, I’ve said above, is no longer the case.

    4. I agree. Small and slow teams would be needed, if they were a way for promising new drivers to enter Formula One and show what they are made for. But these new teams are mostly giving opportunities to those drivers, who bring in the most money. HRT only existed, because it let drivers such as Karthikeyan have a drive, so I won’t miss them.

      Since cost-cutting doesn’t seem to work, I think Formula One should seriously reconsider allowing buying cars (or blueprints) from another team again. That way small teams would have a chance to compete without taking these awful pay drivers.

  2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    4th December 2012, 13:29

    Does anyone know what the overall investment was that HRT made to compete in F1

  3. @keithcollantine It says HRT drivers’ 2013 race results and HRT drivers’ 2013 laps per position.

    Nice poke towards Vettel’s run ins with Karthikeyan as well! I’ll miss having 24 cars, it’s a shame they didn’t find a buyer, but they messed up pretty bad.

    1. haha…noticed it now. HRT have been sent to future to prepare for the 2013 season :p

    2. @npf1 Fixed it, thanks.

      1. @keithcollantine, the first sentence of the article says “Of the three teams which made their Formula One debuts in 2012” which should be “(…) debuts in 2010”.

        1. Oh dear, lots of problems with years today! Fixed.

          1. Wasn’t HRT’s best finish 13th? Liuzzi in the 2011 Canadian GP?

          2. @geemac If you’re refering to team stats, they’re from 2012 season.

          3. Of course, thanks @hotbottoms

  4. I am really saddened by the loss of HRT. I am a fan of this sport first and foremost and for me the battle at the back of the grid is just as important as the battle at the front. I really do applaud the likes of HRT, Forti, Coloni and everyone’s favourites Minardi for fighting on when everyone else wonders “what’s the point”. The teams at the back are on the grid fight not only for position and points but for their survival and their right to compete. I think that is an admirable quality when the likes of BMW, Honda and Toyota are willing to pull the plug on their PR exercises… sorry I mean F1 programmes… at the whim of an accountant.

    Since 2010 HRT, Caterham and Marussia (in their various guises) have added a different dynamic and I always found myself looking at the timing screens to see who was “best of the rest”. I think it is testament to HRT’s fighting spirit that they finished 11th ahead of Virgin/Marussia in the championship in 2010 and 2012, despite chronic lack of funding and numerous internal restructurings. In the middle part of this season I really thought they were heading in the right direction, they briefly caught up with Marussia but sadly it wasn’t to be. I’ll miss them, I hope I’m not the only one who will.

    1. I will also miss HRT and after reading the Performance data article I find it is proven that they deserved a place in F1. They had very few resources, they had a poor base for their cars, still they managed to not be last in the first 2 years and this year they were the team that reduced the most the gap to the front-runners, even if it was the year with less resources. They were the slow team but they were not a complete joke and it seemed that they could do a proper job if they woudl be given some more opportunities. Unfortunately it was not to be…

      1. The data only tells half the story…and slightly misses the point of my little rant. :p In terms of ultimate pace they weren’t up to scratch, but they did pick up the odd result which put them ahead of Marussia. If anyone is to be critised, it is Marussia! They were the better team, had the better car and had better drivers and yet couldn’t get the results.

        1. I did not want to compare HRT to any other teams with my previous comment, although you have to becuase it is a competition…
          For me there is no doubt that HRT was the worst team in these 3 years and it was actually a big shame for Virgin/Marussia to finish below them for 2 years!

          Regardless of that, in terms of pace only these guys managed in 2012 to close the gap to the front-runners compared to the previous year, which is somewhat amazing, at least for me. And for me it showed that the same team could achieve more with just a bit more money. So these guys have merit but they started on the wrong foot already, in terms of project and finances, so it collapsed after not being able to find better owners/partners.
          So for me, in terms of team structure and management/ownership they were much below the minimum standards for F1, but technically they still deserved their place and did enough to confirm that.

        2. If anyone is to be critised, it is Marussia!

          Well, as someone who likes Marussia a bit, I must say I blame Sebastian Buemi for that 12th place in 2010! :P

  5. As much as the proper excitement is always going to be who wins the race/championship, it always warmed the cockles when a Larrousse/Minardi/Dallara etc used to scrape into the points, or even more incredibly onto the podium. I miss that about F1 nowadays. None of the new teams have scored a point in three years, so something is not quite right for the smaller teams.

    I’d take the quantity over quality route any day, I quite like the idea of a team turning up with 20 people and a box of spanners and scoring championship points!

    1. In the 1990s reliability was quite bad, so even extremely slow cars could occasionally get into the points. Nowadays cars are way too reliable – usually some drivers retire by first-lap incidents or wheels coming off after a pitstop, but not because of mechanical failures. The reliability effect outweights the changes in the points-system by a large margin. Speed has become much more important in modern F1. So that’s why teams like Minardi had more “right to exist” than teams like hrt. In addition I would like mention that Minardi was much closer to the leader’s pace than hrt, even though they were handicapped by a big deficit in engine performance.

  6. Its a shame to see they could not secure a buyer – surely purchasing a team, moving it to the UK, investing £30m to run it for the year (saw that figure somewhere, but might be wrong), and £40m to improve infrastructure = £70million spend to turn it into your own team for 2014. thats good value for money isn’t it? and with new rules and regs……. Honda 2008 ? Brawn 2009 anyone?

    If i had a spare billion i would jump right in and purchase the team, as i could afford to spend a few years at a loss, but if i only had £200m of spare cash lying around i wouldn’t be able to cope with 2-3 years running at a loss due to poor performance and sponsorship – have the other new teams successfully had a positive turn over at all yet?

    1. I think that’s a very important question, though I can’t answer it! :C

  7. SV will be very happy!

    do we know how this will effect qualifying? how many cars will now be eliminated in Q1 and Q2? hopefully it means more than just 1 midfield car will be eliminated from Q1. i always found Q1 pretty boring for that reason…

    1. I guess it will be 6 cars eliminated in each session, cause we need to reduce 12 to have the top-10 shootout in Q3.

    2. @asherway

      how many cars will now be eliminated in Q1 and Q2?

      Six, as it says in the rules.

  8. There was always something about HRT, the team of engineers and drivers and not the owners, that displayed a staunch willingness to compete and perform well in Formula 1. I will dearly miss them if they are gone, though it is likely we may never see them in F1 again.

    What happens to the new, last placed team? Will they be subject to the same scrutiny that was accorded to HRT. Will that teams cars be called mobile chicanes? Will their owners tolerate the stigma of being last in a sport that is highly competitive and equally unforgiving?

    The fact that HRT has been lost due to financial reasons shows that something about F1 needs to change. I already feel that teams are trying to shift the onus of finding sponsors onto the drivers. Similarly maybe the F1 management is leaving the cost part to the teams and not doing enough to make the sport sustainable and affordable at the same time. I am no financial whiz nor claim to know how the management and finance work. But I understand it needs to be looked at. A lot of teams have been lost in the past few years and the trend must be arrested for the good of the sport.

  9. Bernie always said if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen and that if you couldn’t cut it in F1 then leave. That was back when F1 was actually F1. This new series with its more socialist structure of helping the small teams by reducing entry fees and limiting costs through this, that and the other could surely have helped them more in some small way.

    Granted, you don’t want a total lame duck on the grid, but they weren’t a million miles from Marussia & Caterham plus they did complete 76% of laps so they weren’t a joke. And as the article says, losing a(ny) team from F1 these days is not good news in the grand scheme. Hopefully something positive will come of it. The FIA will at the least be more willing to see someone else fill the gap. Maybe not next year but the year after. Maybe someone like Prodrive can come in and make a better fist of it. I’m sorry for the employees at HRT though. Hopefully they land on their feet.

  10. @Keith-Collantine so with HRT gone is there a possibility the FIA opens a search for a 12th team or perhaps even a 13th for the 2014 season? It surely wouldn’t hurt for the FIA to give it a try.

    1. @force-maikel No, the deadline for applications for next year has passed (it was November 30th).

      1. The 2014 deadline has passed??

      2. i also wanted to ask about this, because lines like “HRT’s third season in Formula One appears to have been its last.” suggest that it might not have been. might there be any options for someone that would purchase the remainder of HRT to enter the next season?
        i remember when Stefan GP wanted to do so in 2010 with the Toyota stuff, and the whole case ended way after the deadline for applications.

    2. On a semi-related note, if a new team were to be preparing for 2014 when would we expect to hear about it? And do you think it would be more likely that they would join in 2015 (a year after regs change) like the last batch of new teams @keithcollantine ?

  11. I think Ferrari should buy them as a second team, and call them ‘Cucumber Racing’ :)

    In all seriousness though, I will miss seeing them on the grid.

  12. wait… there was a spanish team called HRT??? …Never noticed

  13. consider that had Sebastian Vettel not come across Karthikeyan’s HRT in Malaysia and America, the drivers’ championship would not have had the nail-biting down-to-the-wire climax we all enjoyed

    If one of the few benefits HRT brought was being so slow as to hold up cars racing for the win, then that’s not saying much at all. I’m sad that there are less teams and drivers on the grid next year, and I love an underdog, and always had a soft spot for Minardi. But HRT were no Minardi, and it looked increasingly hopeless that they would ever develop beyond the last two rows of the grid. F1 is the pinnacle of driving and technical excellence, neither of which were present in HRT. At least Caterham and Marussia appear to have goals in the sport beyond merely surviving.

    1. “merely surviving” is what Minardi and other much loved teams did for many years.

      1. Minardi also kick-started a lot of much loved driver’s careers, Webber and Alonso to name but two. Plus they had some kind of charm that I personally felt was lacking in HRT, others may well have the opposite view.
        HRT this year had the oldest driver pairing on the grid, and would probably have stuck with them for next year and the year after. They were slow and in my view brought nothing to the sport. I’m not saying good riddance, but that they are no great loss.

  14. So sad. The first spanish F1 team had to start on the worst economical situation.

  15. it’s a shame customer cars are forbidden. from my experience in 1:10 racing, just fielding a proper car (even in spec classes) is a task and a half. f1 remains rooted in the world of diminishing returns, with everyone re-inventing the wheel for it to be thrown out the window in a year, a month or even 1 day.

    in the entire world, there aren’t enough entities that are both willing and able to compete for mid-pack status, never mind wins. the lofty goal of every team a constructor has been untenable for ages. nobody with half a brain would enter f1 now.

    1. I don’t agree. I think customer cars are a slippery slope, and would change the face of F1 for the worse.

  16. In all honesty I think HRT did a good job given what tools they had. In every season they never fell significantly behind in the development race relative to the big spending, resource rich front runners. In reality they probably kept up with them or slightly “out developed ” them. Yes they were starting from a low baseline, but still it’s some achievement to keep up with the brilliance of Newey, the resources of McLaren and the cash of Ferrari.

    Sad to see them go. F1 needs the minnows.

  17. Am I safe to assume that next year Q1 and Q2 will now eliminate the slowest 6 cars from each session? Similar to how Q1 and Q2 eliminated the slowest 5 in 2010.

      1. Thanks Keith!

  18. The Formula One ecosystem has lost one of its minnows. While most attention is understandably focused on the teams at the front, the importance of a well-filled grid for the health of the sport shouldn’t be overlooked. In the ongoing debate over the quality of racing in F1, the simple fact that if there are more cars on the track there will be more going on tends to get overlooked.

    A well filled grid. A grid where the last 4 teams are little more than placeholders to make up the numbers is not a healthy grid. Replacing HRT with another ill-funded minnow team won’t suddenly make for interesting racing. Red Bull run with a budget supposedly nudging 300 million. McLaren and Ferrari are the next closest, but even they are losing out to Red Bull’s cashflow and Newey’s intuition. Mercedes can barely make themselves competitive, never mind the rest of the field.

    I appreciate the sentiments of the article, but I simply can’t agree with them in this case.

    HRT were not a minnow team. A minnow team is one that struggles but makes progress. HRT never made progress, and they never had a competent organisation to run them. They were a call back to the days when 30 teams would turn up to a race weekend, and 20 would fail to pre-qualify, because their cars were 4 year old customer cars held together with tape and hope, driven by guys who put the phrase “pay driver” to shame. It all sounds very romantic until you remember that said car still has the power to kill.

    For proof of that, consider that had Sebastian Vettel not come across Karthikeyan’s HRT in Malaysia and America, the drivers’ championship would not have had the nail-biting down-to-the-wire climax we all enjoyed.

    I’m sorry, but this is patently not true. Vettel’s alternator failure in Valencia, and Alonso’s two first corner crashes had more of an impact on the championship than anything HRT did by holding him up for a second or two.

    Come to that, McLaren’s failures robbed Hamilton of a second title this year. You’re clutching at straws here, I’m afraid to say Keith. If you want a well-filled, healthy grid, we need more Williams and Force Indias. Teams with reasonable facilities and reasonable cashflow. Not another HRT, with no funding, and no hope, clogging up the back of the field to little purpose.

    1. @hairs

      If you want a well-filled, healthy grid, we need more Williams and Force Indias. Teams with reasonable facilities and reasonable cashflow. Not another HRT, with no funding, and no hope, clogging up the back of the field to little purpose.

      I don’t disagree with any of that. But there’s no point complaining that HRT failed to fulfil that desire.

      There was already one spare place on the grid this year and did any of your miraculous, well-funded, competitive teams appear to fill it? No.

      And now the grid is getting even thinner. That reflects on the cost of competing on F1, and that is what we should confront rather than pretending HRT were incompetent cheapskates.

      1. @Keithcollantine

        You’re right, no team did appear to fill it. That means that dreams of a competitive grid are still far off. Losing HRT hasn’t robbed us of any part of a competitive grid, and the sport isn’t any poorer without them.

        F1 has a funding problem, in fact all motorsports have a funding problem. That’s what confuses me about calls for more teams, more formulae, more drivers, more more more. There is no money to fund it anymore. The only global, successful, profitable formula only ever has, and had, about 3 teams vying to win, at any point in its history. The team names have changed over the years, but not the economics.

        This is a technology driven sport, and that means having deep pockets gives you an automatic advantage. It always will. Whether there are 7 teams behind, or 10, makes no odds. So while i agree a full grid would be nice, and a grid of three teams would be a joke, I have no idea why there is a requirement for 12. It’s not some magic number. We’ll have 11 next year, one of which is red bulls’ lackey squad and thus not much of a real team either.

        Losing HRT isn’t going to affect the quality of the races or the results of the championship.

      2. As to whether or not they were incompetent cheapskates, i think we have to separate the owners and management from the workers.

        Campos Meta and Team USA were disorganised shambles while they were still applying for the licence. Team USA folded before the season, Campos went into melt down and barely clung on, and failed to even get a car into winter testing. Twice they turned up to the first race of the season with a car that had never turned a wheel. They never found sponsors, they had as many changes of management as they did seasons, and they got nothing done.

        Imagine I turned up to the Olympics and claimed I was a pole vaulter. The conversation would go like this:
        q: Have you got a pole? No. Have you qualified? No. Have you trained? No. Have you ever jumped before? No. Are you going to get a pole? No. Are you going to do any training? No.

        That’s what Hrt’s management have been doing since 2009. Complaining about the loss of the budget cap doesn’t help either. Caterham have struggled. Virgin have struggled. HRT have just sat there.

  19. @keithcollantine The name of the technical director is Tony Cuquerella (not Cuqurella). He has become famous to F1 followers here in Spain because in the Spanish TV coverage to F1 races there was a section on F1 technology and Cuquerella was the one offering expert insight to F1 noobs like me. A good contribution from HRT and Cuquerella to F1 that we fans will be missing next year.

    1. Thanks, I’ve seen his name spelt about four different ways.

      1. @keithcollantine Strange name, even for Spaniards, but no doubt is spelled “Cuquerella”. Real given name is “Antonio” that in Spanish is often shortened as “Tony” or “Toni” which are pronounced exactly the same way. Fast Google search seems to show a preference for “Toni” (as in his own twitter account:

  20. It’s to bad they couldn’t get the support they needed, it is an expensive sport, infact it’s gotten too expensive to be realistic. They you go, another one kicked to the curb!

    1. @buzzzz Yet, we’ve seen one of the most competitive seasons in recent history. I don’t buy that it’s too expense to be realistic, in the slightest.

  21. Am sorry if I been a bit harsh but to be very honest a team that is match by pace GP2 cars don’t deserve an F1 slot,yeah it represents countries but in the last few races of 2012 they struggle very badly in terms of money.

    1. @wasif1

      a team that is match by pace GP2 cars don’t deserve an F1 slot

      HRT were on average almost four seconds per lap quicker than the GP2 pole sitter based on a comparison of dry qualifying sessions this year:

      Malaysia: HRT 2.5 seconds quicker
      Bahrain: HRT 3.4 seconds quicker
      Spain: HRT 3.1 seconds quicker
      Monaco: HRT 3.1 seconds quicker
      Europe: HRT 5.2 seconds quicker
      Hungary: HRT 3.0 seconds quicker
      Italy: HRT 4.4 seconds quicker
      Singapore: HRT 7.1 seconds quicker

      1. That would have been painful for HRT: complaining that Dallara had given them a piece of rubbish, and then building their won car that is slower than a 2 year old GP2 Dallara. Good thing this isn’t the case.

        HRT was practically a project that was doomed to fail. With unsufficient funds, the team tried to make the best of it and that they lasted for three whole seasons is an accomplishment on its own.

  22. thats good news, they were driving danger to other drivers apart from themselves of course… HRT was total disaster from start till end. thank god not to see them again

  23. what do you think if the ‘new’ (got to stop calling them that) teams were allowed an additional driver test day, whereby as a sign of sportsmanship, World Championship winning drivers/teams would test their cars, to give real advice on where the car is, what to and what not to develop.

    Back when Renault had their famous launch control – wasn’t there some restriction on testing for the top of the grid teams, and lower down teams had an extra session on Thus/Friday or something?

    I would love to see what Alonso or Ham could do with them (in my opinion they seem to be able to drive a car to the edge of its limits and a bit beyond more so than the other drivers).

  24. I never had much hope of HRT improving and a hopless team is no fun to watch. Hopefully this will have some positive consequences in that it brings focus to the fact that we’re short a team now. I would like to see two new teams, hopefully with some better backing and ambition. After all the experience we got from HRT failing is not that its impossible to succeed in F1, just that they will have to try harder.

  25. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword this situation in my opinion. On the one hand, it is sad to see HRT leave and it would be nice to see the whole universe of F1 being a bit more inviting for them but then again, this is not a charity and shouldn’t be treated as one. You get little sympathy in football where this is just as great a divide with money. No one is forced to compete in F1 and we all know the risks. Joining the sport a midst the worst financial disaster in recent history then you’ve got to expect things will be extremely difficult.

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