Despite having its car ready for a shakedown before the opening round of the F1 season for the first time in its three-year history, the HRT team is still concerned that it may not make the grade to be a part of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.
The Spanish outfit had its first F112 chassis in action at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on the day after the final group test of the winter, but requested a delay to scrutineering on its second car ahead of free practice in Melbourne, its preparations having been delayed by failing the mandatory FIA crash test. Both Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan took to the track on a wet opening day at Albert Park, but the Spaniard failed to record a flying lap and his team-mate twice ground to a halt on track, prompting new team principal Luis Perez Sala to concede that qualifying for the opening race might be beyond the team's capabilities.
"For us it has been almost a success just to be here in Melbourne, because it has been very tough," the former Minardi driver told journalists in Melbourne, "We missed the crash test at the beginning of February and then, almost until the end of February, we were working to try and pass the crash test. We worked all night last night just to get the second car ready and, in FP1, we were running only with one car, several laps, three or four laps. Only in FP2 could we afford to run at least the installation lap with Pedro's car.
"It will be difficult for us [to qualify within the 107 per cent time], but I'm not thinking right now about the speed of the car. I'm just trying to get all the things done that we need to do as best as possible to get into [practice] tomorrow, doing several laps and then we will see on the qualifying. For us, Melbourne is like a place where we will get some information about the cars and go forward for the next races."
Although it made the cut for its 2010 debut in Bahrain - despite Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna only getting to drive their cars for the first time in the opening days of the event - HRT was left on the sidelines at last year's Australian Grand Prix after Karthikeyan and Tonio Liuzzi were unable to record times with 107 per cent of the fastest Q1 mark.
Both drivers were able to race at the second round in Malaysia, but Perez Sala admitted that even that may be beyond the team this time around.
"We hope, but we will see," he sighed, "For us, the most important thing is to be here and then to learn as much as possible. Of course, the team is a bit tired because we have been working quite hard in the last month. I would like them to relax a bit and we will see. Malaysia? Shanghai? Whatever."
Karthikeyan, who conducted the first test of the new car in Barcelona, suffered a hydraulic issue towards the end of the afternoon session which forced him to park up after 16 laps, having earlier been sidelined by an oil pressure problem with just three laps in the book. de la Rosa, meanwhile, made a brief first acquaintance with the F112, after the team worked through the night on Thursday to ensure that his car needed only final adjustments before joining the fray in FP2. However, the Spaniard then suffered a hydraulic problem which stopped him before he could post a flying lap.
"It's been a complicated day but we knew what we were in for," Perez Sala concluded, "The fact that we haven't done pre-season testing means that we must get things right, not get ahead of ourselves and detect problems in order to fix them. What the majority of teams have done during winter, we have to do here.
"Narain was able to complete 19 laps and accumulate certain information. Pedro could only get through one lap, but it was an important one because the team has worked non-stop to make sure the car was finished on time for today, and they achieved it. Tomorrow, we will continue to progress.”