HRT had a calamitous and comedic debut season which saw the struggling Spanish outfit make more driver’s seats than upgrades to their car and 2011 was going to be no different. After evaluating no less than 4 drivers in 2010 it was decided that none of them brought enough money with them. In keeping with the current trend of former stars making a comeback like Schumacher and Del la Rosa, HRT turned to Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan and his sponsorship from TATA. The team suffered a huge setback in the winter after a deal to run the Toyota TF110 collapsed because of missed payments, forcing the team into modifying last year’s car to conform to this season’s regulations. After pre season testing in the 2010 car, HRT gave the second seat to Italian Tonio Liuzzi following his release from Force India.
So for a second season in a row HRT showed up at the season opener with an Untested car. The HRT F111 seemed to be a shy beast, waiting for the final minutes of FP2 to complete its first installation lap in the hands of Liuzzi. Despite sporting a new paint job thanks to Hollywood film artist Daniel Simon and eye catching slogans like This is a Cool Spot and Your Logo Here to entice the sponsors neither car made it to the grid being outside the 107% rule. This didn’t dampen the spirits of team boss Colin Kolles who hailed the job done by the team as “a miracle” and was very bullish about catching the other new teams ahead of them. After a string of back row starts, Liuzzi out qualified both of the Virgin cars in Turkey and both HRTs started ahead of Jerome d’ Ambrosio in Spain to finally give the team something to shout about. The teams best weekend came at the Canadian Grand Prix where they managed to stay out of trouble in the tricky wet conditions to finish 13th and 17th.
In the run up to the British Grand Prix the team announced that young Red Bull protégé Daniel Ricciado was to replace the unimpressive Karthikeyan from the Silverstone race. Some saw this as a risk by the young Australian driver to make his F1 debut at the back of the grid but Ricciado was undaunted and has beaten Liuzzi to the chequered flag in 2 of the 3 races so far.
The team’s fortunes are looking up following the news of the Thesan Group buying a majority stake in the team from the team’s original saviour Jose Ramon Carabante. The Madrid based investment company are keen to keep the team in Spain and to make them “more Spanish” although I think they’ll draw the line at siestas!
Tonio Liuzzi is as optimistic as ever going into the second half of the season, setting his sights on catching Team Lotus. In a Q & A with Autosport: “We would love to be ahead of Team Lotus but it is not an easy target, especially if you look at where we started in Australia,” said Liuzzi. “But we are on the same points  and have half a season to improve and try and achieve a better position in the constructors’ championship. We are following the right path and are in the right place.” Although that target may be out of reach this season, another 10th place finish looks to be on the cards as Virgin struggle to regroup after parting company with Technical director Nick Writh.