In a sad repeat of its F1 debut a little over twelve months ago, Hispania Racing completed just a single lap on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The Spanish backmarker, which again failed to run its new car in pre-season testing, was still building the F111s destined for Narain Karthikeyan and Tonio Liuzzi when the circuit opened for the first practice session of the new campaign, and toiled until the final minutes of the afternoon session before Liuzzi was finally able to venture out. Unsurprisingly, given the fact that rain had intensified over Albert Park, the Italian completed a single installation lap before returning to the pits. A year ago, Bruno Senna shook down his F110 for the first time in opening practice, while Karun Chandhok memorably had to wait until qualifying before finally getting out in his car.
“Even though we only did one lap today, it is very important for us to have put the F111 into action," Liuzzi insisted, "It's been a big effort from everybody, and the mechanics and engineers have worked day and night to get the car ready. It's very positive to have the car on the ground and we now have some numbers to work on for tomorrow. We are looking forward to that as it is our first chance to put in some laps together and get some information on the car.”
Team-mate Narain Karthikeyan, making his return to F1 after a five-year break, was not as fortunate as Liuzzi and was left to cool his heels in HRT's garage for the entire day. Nevertheless, the Indian, who conducted most of the pre-season preparations in the F110, remained phlegmatic.
“Everybody is working hard trying to put things into place and, with new cars, there are always bound to be problems," he sighed, "We have everything here, but just to trim parts and fit them into a car is a time consuming process. Unfortunately, we lost a day today, so I think it's going to be a tough weekend undoubtedly, but at least we have made some progress.”
The Indian had already sounded pessimistic about his chances of taking to the track when asked about the readiness of the new car in Thursday's press conference, but insisted that things would get better as the year wears on.
"The car was designed very late, but we have some clever people in the team - Geoff Willis is the main man behind the new design of the car - so, as the season progresses and when updates come, we should be in a reasonable position," he claimed, "It is easy to sit here and say we want to be the best of the new teams, but Lotus has made a big step forward. We will just go with the flow.
"It is an important year for me with the Indian Grand Prix, so hopefully we will have a reasonable year. We believe the car is a good step forward with the Williams rear end and everything else, so it should be a positive step, at least on paper. But, until you drive, you never know. We will see what happens. I can go on and on and on, but only when we drive on the track will be know where we stand."
To compound the outfit's troubles, it was found guilty of having personnel within the confines of the circuit during specified 'down time', breaking a new rule introduced by the FIA in an attempt to prevent teams from forcing mechanics to work all-night shifts. No-one from any team will be allowed to be in the circuit for six-hour periods before Friday and Saturday practice sessions, although each outfit will be permitted four individual exceptions in a season.
"This was the first of four individual exceptions permitted for the HRT team during the 2011 championship season and therefore no action should be taken," the FIA said in a statement issued after the breach was discovered.
“The team made a great effort today and, tomorrow, we can have a normal day, with both cars running on the track," team principal Colin Kolles claimed, "Tomorrow will be another day of hard work and, hopefully, more progress. As for today, I must thank the whole team for their effort and hard work, they did a great job. I am very proud of them.”