As expected, the hapless Hispania Racing team failed to make the grade in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix
and is left relying on the charity of its rivals if it is to take any further part in the opening round of the 2011 F1 world championship.
After a winter spent running last year's F110 in testing, and then failing to get the new F111 on track in time to shake it down before heading to Melbourne, the Spanish outfit relived its 2010 nightmare, with Tonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan completing just seven laps between them prior to qualifying as they waited for the team to build up their cars. Unsurprisingly, Karthikeyan found himself 17 seconds off the pace in free practice three - neither driver ventured out on Friday morning, while Liuzzi completed just an installation lap in both the second and third sessions - and HRT headed into qualifying knowing that beating the reinstated 107 per cent rule was unlikely.
Although both drivers covered greater distances - eleven laps apiece - than they had previously managed, and were a lot closer to the pace than in practice, the inevitable came true as Liuzzi trailed 22nd qualifier Jerome d'Ambrosio by a couple of seconds, with Karthikeyan lapping 1.3secs slower still.
Despite the disappointment, and with an appeal to be allowed to join the back of the grid - something that would require the unanimous approval of its eleven rivals - HRT team boss Colin Kolles was full of praise for his crew.
“In the end, it just couldn't be, but still I'm incredibly proud of my whole team," he accepted, "Our drivers produced the maximum in the least amount of time possible, [while] we managed to get both cars ready in time for qualifying and proved that the car is capable of running a lot quicker than today.
"The circumstances in which we arrived were not as desired [and] we created a miracle again, but it wasn't enough. We'll be back stronger than ever in Malaysia. There, we will have more time to test the car and show where the F111 really belongs”.
While Karthikeyan, returning to F1 after a five-year absence, lamented the lack of time he had to get used to his new mount - 'it's a shame not to have had one more day as, [with] an extra 24 hours, we would have been in a better position' - he said that he anticipated better levels of performance when the F1 circus reconvenes at Sepang in a fortnight's time.
“Everybody did an amazing job," Liuzzi agreed, "We have to be proud because everyone worked well, and I think we have to be positive for the future. We are upset because we are not in the 107 per cent, but we are looking forward to Malaysia, where we will be up to speed.
"We have to be happy with what we've done - the lap time was more than what we expected - and we believe that our car will be much better in the future. It is true that everything was a little bit critical because we ended up not qualifying, but we just have to be proud of the job done by the team. We faced a lot of difficulties getting here and the effort put in by the whole team this week has been huge, but the rules are the rules.
"Now we're focused on the next race. I am positive and am sure that everything will go well in Malaysia.”