Let's be honest right from the outset. Any team that calls itself HRT cannot truly expect to ever be taken seriously as an F1 operation – and judging by the calamity that was 2010 and the embarrassment that has been 2011 thus far, 'serious' is a word that is in short supply at the struggling Spanish outfit.
There are two positives for Hispania Racing in F1 2011. One is the fact that the team is still even in the field at all following its well-documented trials and tribulations last year; the other is the eleventh-hour recruitment of Force India refugee Vitantonio Liuzzi, who whilst not a world-beater, is certainly a decent pedaller and will likely extract every last ounce of pace that the car is willing to give. Unfortunately for HRT, that is where the good news pretty much ends.
The new F111 might look a damn site sharper and more innovative than its unwieldy and out-dated Dallara predecessor – and team insiders affirm that it is indeed a significant step forward technologically from last year's effort – but that is very difficult to prove when for the second year running, the car has failed to turn a wheel prior to the season curtain-raiser. Not only was it late, but then the little running that would have been possible was scuppered by a customs issue. A customs issue. In Spain. For a Spanish team. Testing in Barcelona. The mind fairly boggles, doesn't it...
Accompanying Liuzzi on the driving front is Narain Karthikeyan, and here is another one of HRT's peculiarities. Narain, you see, has not competed at the highest level since 2005 – and even back then, he was scarcely 'at the highest level' – and the Indian has been way off the pace during testing with the old car. The sole visible sponsor on the side of the F111 gives every indication as to the reason for his signing. If he finishes anywhere other than last this year, it will be an achievement in itself.
Liuzzi and Karthikeyan have revealed that they are hoping for a double finish in Melbourne this weekend. A double start may be a more realistic immediate target...
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