With the new time limit on F1 teams garage time, the need for speed started in the garage before Friday’s first day on the race track of the 2011 season. This was no more evident than in the second-to-last Pit Lane F1 garage – HRT. The team is still playing catchup. The two drivers are NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN of India and VITANTONIO LIUZZI of Italy. Liuzzi was just named to the team two weeks ago, making the team the last to complete its roster.
Due to one problem or another, the team has done its 2011 F1 testing with its 2010 car. At the last test, the 2011 car on view was a show car. The graphics remind me of an updated, fancy version of an ad-free bus bench, i.e. “This space available” or “your logo here.” Team principal, COLIN KOLLES, touted the new livery, designed by DANIEL SIMON, “as a wonderfully confident look for our new car which really captures the effort the whole team has put into developing the F111. The car design and the graphic design perfectly complement one another and mark the real beginnings of our ambitions.”
HRT’s 2011 race car will (hopefully) run its first-ever lap Friday for the first 90-minute F1 practice starting at 12:30 pm local time. When last seen Thursday afternoon, Karthikeyan was in race trim himself and in the cockpit for a seat fitting. It didn’t appear that the suspension parts had yet been attached to the tub. From my vantage point, it appeared that only one car was present – with not many parts in place and only a few crew members seen.
Karthikeyan and Liuzzi have their work cut out for them this weekend. FIA has re instituted the 107 percent rule (requiring a driver to lap within 107 percent of the fastest driver’s time) or face not making the grid for Sunday’s race. Karthikeyan put on a brave face in the F1 Thursday afternoon press conference, saying “Yeah, of course that is a concern, but 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.
“Yeah, we had some mileage in the old car but the new car, we will have to see how it goes tomorrow as it will be the first time. An uphill task but I will go with the flow and see what happens.”
No doubt Karthikeyan is racing this season with the blessing and probably rupees of India, which hosts its first-ever F1 race on Halloween weekend. At this point, India is the seventeenth race in an ambitious 20-race schedule. However, the first race in Bahrain was postponed due to ‘force majeure’ and the decision on its 2011 placement in the F1 schedule comes in May. F1 primo, BERNIE ECCLESTONE, has already said there would be no replacement race if Bahrain does not run in 2011.
Karthikeyan’s racing resume includes F1, which he last raced in 2007; A1GP, Le Mans, and NASCAR. Yes, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he was the first Indian to race in NASCAR; and he ran nine races last year. The Truck Series has become the latest rage, it seems, for former F1 drivers. Others to compete include most recently this year are NELSON PIQUET, Jr./Kevin Harvick Racing; and MAX PAPIS/Germain Racing; and years ago, ELISEO SALAZAR. Another F1 emigre, SCOTT SPEED, tried NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for a couple of years with mixed results, and now is scheduled to run the 2011 road course races for KEVIN HARVICK in the Nationwide Series.