Tag Archives: HRT

Karthikeyan to remain with HRT for 2012

Karthikeyan will return to HRT despite being dropped last year

Karthikeyan will return to HRT despite being dropped last year

Narain Karthikeyan is to return to the HRT team for 2012.

He drove 8 races for the team in 2011, before being ousted by Daniel Ricciardo. He made a relatively impressive one-off return at the inaugral Indian Grand Prix.

He will be racing alongside Pedro de la Rosa, forming by far the oldest driver combination on the grid. De la Rosa will be 41 in Melbourne, while Karthikeyan will be 35.

Giedo van der Garde was the other contender for the race seat, but it has since become clear that he failed to bring as much sponsorship money as Narain.

This signing effectively closes the 2012 driver market, as all driver vacancies have now been filled.

2011 final driver rankings: 28th – 19th

This will be the complete ranking of each driver in 2011 based on their performances throughout the season. These rankings also contain clippings from previous reviews from 2011 and 2010. Without further delay, here are the first 10 drivers to be examined:

28th – Karun Chandhok

Chandhok had one chance for redemption and failed

Chandhok had one chance for redemption and failed

Previous ranking: 25th (2010 final rankings)

Review from last ranking: He has not been given the car to prove himself in the races.” (2010 half-way review)

The popular Indian driver’s season got off to a miserable start in Melbourne, crashing three turns into his out lap.

He was drafted in for a one-off drive at the Nurburgring, and was completely off the pace, spinning several times and resulting in Chandhok finishing 2 laps behind his teammate.

He made no impact at all during his practice session runs during the season, and his rejected attempt to drive at the Indian Grand Prix was embarrassing to say the least.

27th – Jarno Trulli

Retirement is still knocking on Jarno's door

Retirement is still knocking on Jarno's door

Previous ranking: 23rd

Review from last ranking: “Retirement may not be too far off the horizon for Trulli.”

After another season considerably out-paced by his teammate, its a wonder as to why Caterham will retain Trulli for next season.

Blaming most of his problems on a strange power steering issue, Jarno was still miles off the pace of Heikki Kovalainen after this had been fixed. The former one-lap master was out-qualified 16 times out of 19 this year.

He performed reasonably well in Monaco, but apart from this, it was a truly dismal season for Jarno. After Vitaly Petrov was ousted from his Renault seat, it makes you wonder will the Italian be seen in the paddock in 2012.

26th – Narain Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan impressed in India, but that was about it

Karthikeyan impressed in India, but that was about it

Previous ranking: 24th

Review from last ranking: “With disappointing pace in a lacklustre car, a replacement driver was inevitable.”

Many were very surprised to see Narain return in Australia after a 5-year absence, but that was basically all the impact the Indian had all year.

He was ousted after 8 races, but I was rather impressed with his one-off return at the Indian Grand Prix. Karthikeyan performed reasonably well in a car he had to re-acquaint himself with, and finished ahead of his teammate.

However, this was the only shining moment in a dull and uninspired season for Narain.

25th – Pastor Maldonado

It has been a dreadful debut for Maldonado

It has been a dreadful debut for Maldonado

Previous ranking: 22nd

Review from previous ranking: “If he is unable to turn this form into results, then there will be little future for Maldonado in Formula 1.”

The 2010 GP2 champion has given no reason as to why he deserves to be in Formula 1, relying solely on a substantial paycheck by his fellow Venezuelan backers.

Williams are known to be in trouble financially, and with their decision to float an IPO failing also, they turned to Maldonado to keep the team afloat. He may have done that, but Pastor hasn’t done much else. A single solitary point is all Maldonado has to offer at the end of 2011.

He performed well in Monaco, and was on course for a 6th-placed finish before clashing with Lewis Hamilton. However, he was less friendly with Lewis at Spa, deliberately trying to punt the McLaren off the track.

The last time a driver deliberately crashed in Formula 1, he was disgraced and essentially thrown out of the sport. I wouldn’t have minded if the same happened to Maldonado.

24th – Vitantonio Liuzzi

Liuzzi was well out-performed in the second half of 2011

Liuzzi was well out-performed in the second half of 2011

Previous ranking: 20th

Review from previous ranking: “Vitantonio has done well to demonstrate his prowess in a dismal car.”

In the first half of the season, it appeared as if Liuzzi had driven well, comprehensively beating Karthikeyan and giving HRT their best ever finish in Canada.

But, once Daniel Ricciardo was ordered to replace Karthikeyan, Tonio’s lack of pace was revealed, and his season began to unravel. In the 6 times where both HRTs finished, Liuzzi only beat the rookie twice.

Even when he was in front of Ricciardo, he was never definitively faster than him, and causing a multiple-car crash in Monza was the low point of what could be the last season for Liuzzi.

23rd – Jerome D’Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio has not done badly, but not well enough

D'Ambrosio has not done badly, but not well enough

Previous ranking: 21st

Review from previous ranking: “A first foray into F1 has not gone disastrously just yet for Jerome D’Ambrosio.”

For a rookie, D’Ambrosio was unusually quiet – and that’s not a good thing.

He failed to make a considerable impact at Virgin, but never disgraced himself either. A pair of 14th place finishes kept him ahead of Timo Glock in the drivers’ standings. His worst moment was probably Hungary, where he spun in the pit lane, almost taking his mechanics out with him.

An oddly anonymous debut is not what a rookie driver needs, although I’m still surprised to see him replaced by another rookie. Jerome had the potential to do better, and it’s been disappointing to see him leave F1 so soon.

22nd – Timo Glock

Glock deserves better after 2 lacklustre Virgin cars

Glock deserves better after 2 lacklustre Virgin cars

Previous ranking: 18th

Review from previous ranking: “He has consistently out-qualified D’Ambrosio, and is set to perform better as the season progresses.”

Another season languishing at the back is not what a talented driver like Timo Glock needs to progress his career.

He did his best to prove his worth – particularly in Monaco – but the lack of pace from the MVR-02 held him back.

While Lotus/Caterham continued their ascent to the midfield, all Glock could do was circulate ahead of D’Ambrosio and the HRT cars, and he generally did just that. We all know Timo deserves better, and with a move to a better team out of the question for 2011, next season looks like a similar struggle.

21st – Rubens Barrichello

Not much to talk about for Barrichello

Not much to talk about this year for Barrichello

Previous ranking: 17th

Review from previous ranking: “A horribly uncompetitive Williams is to blame for Barrichello’s slump, but being pushed by underperforming rookie Maldonado does not bode well for Rubens.”

Only two years ago the thought of placing Barrichello this far down the rankings would be unthinkable – the likable Brazilian has retained good pace throughout his 19-season career. However, 2011 was the indicator that Rubens’ career is on its last legs.

Two 9th places in a row was all that Rubens could manage for points. It was still better than teammate Maldonado, but Barrichello doesn’t come with financial backing, and that’s why he is most likely on the way out at Williams.

Uncharacteristic errors, most notably in Australia, marred Rubens’ season. It’s  been a strange few years for the veteran, having experienced the highs of Ferrari and Brawn, contrasting with the lows of Honda and Williams. Unfortunately, I suspect that we may have seen the last of Rubens Barrichello.

20th – Daniel Ricciardo

Ricciardo excelled where others could not

Ricciardo excelled where others could not

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

Many rookie drivers deliberately avoid joining an F1 team halfway through the season, to avoid being thrown out of the sport mere months later. I highly doubt this will occur to Daniel Ricciardo.

Drafted in at Silverstone, Ricciardo was on the pace from the get-go, and was beating Vitantonio Liuzzi after only 3 races. Red Bull are well known for backing the Australian’s move into F1, and it seems that their decision has been justified.

Daniel made no catastrophic errors, and mixed it with the Virgins and Liuzzi throughout qualifying and the races. Racing for Toro Rosso next season, I feel he can succeed where Buemi and Alguersuari failed.

19th – Pedro de la Rosa

Pedro de la Rosa did what was expected of him

Pedro de la Rosa did what was expected of him

Previous ranking: 19th (2010 final ranking)

Review from previous ranking: “HRT are reported to be looking at the Spaniard for 2011, but despite this, his future is in serious doubt.”

It may have been a year late this time around, but I seem to have developed a knack for predicting De la Rosa’s future moves in these rankings!

Pedro had little to do this year, making a sole appearance in Canada, substituting for the injured Sergio Perez. He performed the job as expected, finishing a rather impressive 12th in difficult circumstances.

Considering he had never driven the Sauber C30 before, praise is certainly deserved for De la Rosa. He will drive for HRT next year, and it will be interesting to see how he performs there. To make an attempt at 3 correct predictions in a row, I believe that he won’t make much impact in such a poor car  - and knowing HRT, he’ll likely get replaced halfway through the year.

Pedro de la Rosa joins HRT for 2012

Pedro de la Rosa is to re-enter the F1 paddock next year with the HRT team.

The Spaniard, now 40 years old, has now made 4 comebacks into Formula 1. He has signed a 2-year contract with the team, having driven  as a test driver for McLaren between 2003 and 2009, and 2011.

He made a one-off appearance at Sauber in Canada this year, substituting for the injured Sergio Perez. De la Rosa cited the Spanish roots of the team, as well as knowing several people involved in the team, as one of the reasons he made the move:

"This is a very important step in my sporting career and one of the most 
meditated ones I’ve taken. I’m at a very good stage in terms of maturity and 
am prepared to take on this challenge, which motivates me hugely.

When deciding on joining this project, for me there were three decisive factors: 
my desire to return to the active competition, the fact that HRT is a Spanish 
team and getting to know the people leading this project, Luis Perez-Sala being 
amongst them. I’m here to work hard, with modesty and humility, accepting where 
we are now but keeping in mind where we want to be in two years’ time.

For me, this is the time to put into practice everything that I have learnt over 
the years at international top level racing teams so that we can grow together. 
I am proud that Spain has an F1 team and that I have this opportunity to be its 
driver. I can only show my gratitude towards HRT for having trusted in me for 
this.

Lastly, I can’t forget to thank McLaren for allowing me to take this step. I 
have been very happy over the eight seasons I spent with them, growing as a 
driver and person. Without them I wouldn’t be here today."

This appears to be a shift by HRT to a more long-term driver setup, rather than the disposable pay drivers that have littered the team so far.

This also leaves Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo in doubt regarding their race seats. Several news outlets report that Liuzzi is close to a deal, while Ricciardo is more likely to move to Toro Rosso.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Karthikeyan to race in Korea practice

Jean-Eric Vergne will drive the Toro Rosso 3 times this year

Jean-Eric Vergne will drive the Toro Rosso 3 times this year

Jean-Eric Vergne and Narain Karthikeyan will be driving a Toro Rosso and HRT car respectively in Friday Practice for the Korean Grand Prix.

Karthikeyan will be driving the Hispania to re-adjust himself to the car, before he races in India at the end of this month.

Meanwhile Vergne, who was runner-up in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 series, will be driving Jaime Alguersuari’s car in FP1. Toro Rosso have also confirmed that he will be using Sebastien Buemi’s car for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice sessions. Whichever driver has the least points going into the season finale at Interlagos will submit their seat to Vergne on the Friday.

He will not  be participating in any way at the Indian Grand Prix weekend, as the team feels they need to allow their main drivers to learn the circuit.

Previously, the 21-year-old Frenchman drove for Toro Rosso in last year’s young driver test.

5-place grid penalty for Liuzzi in Singapore

Vitantonio Liuzzi will take a 5-place grid drop for the Singapore Grand Prix after causing carnage on the first lap in today’s Italian GP.

Liuzzi took to the grass (not out of necessity) on the approach to the first chicane, but on returning to the track he moved to avoid a slower car, and spun. His HRT then slammed into Nico Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov further up the field.

The stewards have concluded that the accident was avoidable, and Liuzzi will almost certainly start from the back of the grid in two weeks time.

Here is a video of the accident (sorry for the awful music):

Karthikeyan expects to replace Ricciardo for Indian GP

Narain Karthikeyan may be back racing in October

Narain Karthikeyan may be back racing in October

Narain Karthikeyan has said that he expects to be back in the Hispania car for the inaugral Indian Grand Prix in October.

Having returned to the sport after a 6-year absence, Karthikeyan was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo at the half-way marl this year.

However, after facing the media when unveiling tickets for the Grand Prix last Saturday, the Indian driver said that he expects to be racing in front of his home crowd:

"It was always a dream for me to race in Formula 1 and race in front of my home
crowd. And now thanks to the Jaypee Group that dream is going to be a reality."

However, fellow Indian Karun Chandhok is less hopeful of participating in the Grand Prix. While maintaining his belief that he has not paid his way into Lotus (and one-off drive at the German Grand Prix), Chandhok is still doubtful over driving in India:

"I've always maintained that racing in the German GP this year was a one-off. The
team seem to be pleased with my performance at the event so we will see what
happens."

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Buddh International Circuit, which is hosting the Indian Grand Prix, will be inspected by the FIA in mid-September. If the track is approved, the circuit will be open to the media by the end of that month.

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 24-15

This is the bi-annual review of driver’s performances over the season. Improvements have been made from last year’s review, with an indication towards a driver’s performance the year beforehand being added.

This first article will tackle drivers from 25th to 16th place. Here are the bottom ranked 10 drivers:

Note: This article was written before the British GP, and so stats will not be fully up to date, and any performance from Silverstone will not be taken into account.

24 – Narain Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan was never going to set the world ablaze in a HRT

Karthikeyan was never going to set the world ablaze in a HRT

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

The 34-year-old’s return to F1 racing was never going to set the world ablaze, but with disappointing pace in a lacklustre car, a replacement driver was inevitable.

However, this may still be too harsh on Karthikeyan. The only driver he had to compete with was teammate Liuzzi. But, he has qualified behind Vitantonio at every race, and the average gap between the two is 0.639 seconds.

It is common knowledge that Narain excels in wet conditions. The only race where he has had an opportunity in this sense was Canada, but he still finished in last place, whereas Liuzzi scored HRT’s best ever finish.

With Daniel Ricciardo now at the wheel, perhaps both of HRT’s drivers can take the challenge to Virgin.

23 – Jarno Trulli

Trulli has lost out in his best skill - qualifying

Trulli has lost out in his best skill - qualifying

Ranking in 2010: 18th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 will tell us if he still has what it takes.”

Formerly regarded as a master of the one-lap qualifying run, Trulli has succumbed to being regularly beaten at every course by Heikki Kovalainen.

Long gone are the glory days of pole position and the win back in Monaco 2004. Jarno has been out-qualified by Kovalainen 6 out of 7 races so far, with the average gap being 0.34 seconds.

Two 13th places are better than Heikki’s best, but if his best asset is being soundly beaten, then retirement may not be too far off the horizon for Trulli.

22 – Pastor Maldonado

Without a single point, a bad review was always on the cards

Without a single point, a bad review was always on the cards

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

The 2010 GP2 champion had huge expectations on his shoulders entering the season, replacing Nico Hulkenberg. Unfortunately a disastrous start to his F1 career has left Maldonado second last in the driver’s championship.

A points finish was on the cards in Monaco, before a collision with Lewis Hamilton ruled the Williams out of 7th place. That kind of form has not been repeated anywhere else, with a 15th place in Spain being Pastor’s best result to date.

An impressive qualifying record has kept Maldonado from finishing last in this article. Pastor has qualified ahead of Rubens Barrichello 4 times, on average 3 tenths faster than the Brazilian.

However, if he is unable to turn this form into results, then there will be little future for Maldonado in Formula 1.

21 – Jerome D’Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio has been respectable so far

D'Ambrosio has been respectable so far

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

A first foray into F1 has not gone disastrously just yet for Jerome D’Ambrosio, with respectable results to his name, as well as occasionally beating his experienced teammate.

Two 14th places are slightly better than a solitary 15th managed by Timo Glock. In the 4 occasions where both Virgins have finished a race, D’Ambrosio has finished ahead of Glock 50% of the time.

He has out-qualified Timo on two occasions; however he has struggled in terms of the average qualifying gap (+0.56 seconds).

20 – Vitantonio Liuzzi

Liuzzi has done well in a poor car

Liuzzi has done well in a poor car

Ranking in 2010: 22nd

Review from 2010 ranking: “I would be hugely surprised if Force India were to retain him for 2011.”

The only car Liuzzi has properly raced against is Karthikeyan, and the Italian has done well in asserting himself as the number 1 driver in the team.

A clean sheet in qualifying, combined with beating Narain 4 times out of 5 in the races, proves Liuzzi’s good form. He managed a 13th position in the chaotic Canadian Grand Prix, achieving Hispania’s best ever result, one place off Lotus’ highest finish.

Many questioned the point of remaining in F1 after being ditched by Force India, but Vitantonio has done well to demonstrate his prowess in a dismal car.

19 – Heikki Kovalainen

Dominance over Trulli as expected, but Kovalainen is yet to challenge the midfield

Dominance over Trulli as expected, but Kovalainen is yet to challenge the midfield

Ranking in 2010: 15th

Review from 2010 ranking: “If Lotus deliver on their long-developed 2011 car, then Heikki will be the one to challenge the midfield.”

In 3 out the last 5 races, Heikki has out-qualified Jarno Trulli by over half a second. This dominance has allowed Kovalainen to become the driving force of Lotus in 2011.

2 mechanical retirements have beset Heikki, but he has still managed one 14th place so far this year. Despite his teammate getting one position better, Kovalainen has also led more laps so far this year ahead of Trulli.

With Lotus struggling to match the midfield’s pace, and Trulli’s future uncertain, it will be up to Kovalainen to secure 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship for the team.

18 – Timo Glock

Like Kovalainen, Glock excels in an underacheiving car

Like Kovalainen, Glock excels in an underacheiving car

Ranking in 2010: 21st

Review from 2010 ranking: “A much faster and reliable car is what Timo needs to get himself back up the grid next year.”

In similar fashion to last year, Timo Glock continues to push well above his weight in a very uncompetitive car.

While the Virgin team appear to be being pulled in by HRT, Glock has been chasing after Lotus, with varying results.  While he has only finished in front of one of these two drivers twice, three mechanical retirements have also held back Glock. Similarly, he failed to start the race in Turkey after losing fifth gear before the warm-up lap.

Despite these setbacks, he has consistently out-qualified D’Ambrosio, and is set to perform better as the season progresses.

17 – Rubens Barrichello

Barrichello has not unlocked the FW33's slight potential

Barrichello has not unlocked the FW33's slight potential

Ranking in 2010: 8th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Hopefully, Barrichello has a few more years left on the clock, and can lead Williams to their first win in years.”

A pair of 9th places is all the veteran has to offer so far, in one of the toughest F1 seasons in his 19-season career.

Once again, a horribly uncompetitive Williams is to blame for Barrichello’s slump, but being pushed by underperforming rookie Maldonado does not bode well for Rubens. The Brazilian is 3 tenths slower in qualifying on average compared to his Venezuelan colleague.

An ill-timed move on Nico Rosberg was the start to this poor season. Two mechanical failures have also undermined Barrichello’s hopes for points.

16 – Sebastien Buemi

Buemi hasn't underperformed, but much more is expected

Buemi hasn't underperformed, but much more is expected

Ranking in 2010: 17th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 is Buemi’s last chance to keep his race seat at Toro Rosso.”

With the news of Ricciardo joining HRT, Buemi’s seat is safe at Toro Rosso – for this year at least. While he has not been dominated by his teammate, many were expecting more from Buemi in his 3rd season.

Qualifying is where Sebastien gains an edge over Jaime Alguersuari. The Swiss driver has out-qualified the Spaniard 7 times out of 8, with an average gap of over 0.4 seconds.

However, finishing positions between the two appear to be generally the same, with Alguersuari having a slight lead on points. Toro Rosso have a tendency to drop drivers at the slightest sign of lack of pace, so many are asking why Buemi has been retained for so long.

However, it must be remembered that Buemi is well favoured by Helmut Marko, a man who doesn’t seem to mind leaning over one driver to serve the other.

Still, if Ricciardo impresses at HRT, then Buemi may still be under pressure for the race seat in 2012.

15 – Adrian Sutil

Sutil cannot let himself be beaten by Di Resta

Sutil cannot let himself be beaten by Di Resta

Ranking in 2010: 13th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 will be crucial if Sutil is to prove himself.”

Legal action with Eric Lux aside, there may be trouble on the horizon for Sutil. If Paul di Resta were to out-perform Adrian in the second half of 2011, then it could be a huge struggle for him to progress any further in Formula 1.

Di Resta has a huge lead in qualifying results, beating Sutil 6 times out of 8, with more than half a second in the average distance. Results haven’t gone the Scot’s way, so Sutil has an 8-point lead in the standings. However, it must be remembered that Di Resta, apart from being a rookie, has suffered poor luck in the races.

At times during his career, Sutil has been linked with a future drive for McLaren. However, if he is beaten by Di Resta in his first year, then Adrian will find himself shunted out of the way by the hotshot rookie.

Ricciardo to drive for HRT from British GP onwards

Ricciardo is expected to alternate drives with Liuzzi and Karthikeyan

Ricciardo is expected to alternate drives with Liuzzi and Karthikeyan

Daniel Ricciardo, former test driver for Toro Rosso, has been confirmed as a race driver for HRT, starting from the British Grand Prix.

Oddly enough, the team statement did not explain which of their drivers would be replaced, suggesting that their 3 drivers may shuffle positions for the rest of the year.

The deal was made between Hispania and Dr. Helmut Marko, a senior figure in Red Bull Racing. This will further fuel rumours that Ricciardo has been hand-picked to race for Red Bull in several years.

The statement from the team reads as follows:

"Hispania Racing and Red Bull Racing signed a collaboration deal today which allows 
young Australian talent Daniel Ricciardo to join the Spanish team as its official 
driver.

The current Formula 1 World Champion team has shown trust in Hispania Racing’s 
project and has chosen José Ramón Carabante’s team as a support for the formation 
and development of its driver.

Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, who was behind the steering-wheel in every first 
practice session of the eight grand prix up to now, will finally see his dream come 
true and become a Formula 1 race-driver starting from next week’s British Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo joins Narain Karthikeyan and Vitantonio Liuzzi as official drivers 
of the Spanish Formula 1 team, Hispania Racing."

This is practically a repeat of what happened last year with Hispania, where Sakon Yamamoto replaced Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok from the British GP onwards.

While it has not been yet confirmed, it is expected that Narain Karthikeyan will make way for Ricciardo, considering teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi’s domination over him this year. However, if this is the case, it is almost certain that Karthikeyan will still race at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

Ricciardo has test driven with Toro Rosso at every first practice session so far this year. He was poised to replace either Sebastien Buemi or Jaime Alguersuari. However, in recent races, the two have improved and are currently level on points. The fact that Ricciardo has been shipped off to HRT indicates that Toro Rosso is still pleased with the performance of their drivers.

How the teams are shaping up after testing – Part 3

This is the final part of a 3-post series looking at each individual team before they head off to Melbourne in little over a week’s time.

Sauber

Perez and Kobayashi looks like an impressive line-up

Perez and Kobayashi looks like an impressive line-up

With good testing form and a formidable line-up, Sauber are certainly a team to watch out for in 2011.

Critics slate the driver line-up as inexperienced, but Peter Sauber’s last young driver pairing was Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld in 2011, which earned them 4th in the constructors championship.

This year’s pairing of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez may not have the same effect, but they are both forces to be reckoned with. Perez, a former winner of British Formula 3, seeks to stake his claim in Formula 1. Kobayashi strikes fear into those in front of him with his trademark breathtaking overtaking.

The arrival of James Kay last year came at around the same time Sauber turned their year around. This year, the C30 is not radical or innovative technically, but with a Ferrari KERS system, the car could be battling high in the midfield.

Such a young driver line-up is risky to some, but I don’t think that it will affect the team in any negative way.

Toro Rosso

Both Buemi and Alguersuari will be under pressure in the STR6

Both Buemi and Alguersuari will be under pressure in the STR6

Despite having retained both Alguersuari and Buemi for another year, the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as test driver will keep both Toro Rosso drivers on their toes all year.

Both Alguersuari’s and Buemi’s contracts allow them to be pushed aside for Ricciardo at the half-way mark, so any underachieving will be heavily punished. However, the promising form of the STR6 should propel the team forward regardless of drivers this year.

The double floor and upswept sidepods, created by Giorgio Ascanelli, are both clever innvoations, but it is unclear where Toro Rosso stand after testing. The general consensus though is that the team are in a much better position than last year, having been the worst-ranked out of the points-scoring teams.

As previously stated, both drivers will have to up their game, but the pressure is more on Sebastien Buemi. Having been at the team for two years, he failed to show his impressive form from from 2009 into 2010, and completely lost out to Alguersuari by the end of last year. It could be a terrible shame to see him replaced, as his first race back in Australia 2009 was extremely promising.

No matter which drivers survive the year with the team, improvements are essential.

Lotus

The Lotus T128 is a huge improvement from its predecessor

The Lotus T128 is a huge improvement from its predecessor

Considerably the best of the new teams last year, Lotus seek to leap into the midfield with radical improvements over the winter.

Leaving aside the “Lotus vs Lotus” legal battle, everything is looking up for Lotus at the moment, as the T128 is already showing signs of huge improvements.

Heikki Kovalainen has said that the 2011 machine “feels like a proper Formula 1 car”. The gearbox and hydraulic issues that plagued the team last year have been solved by ditching Xtrac for Red Bull. Even with those difficulties in 2010, they were the most reliable out of the 3 teams, so this is another big step forward.

A pull-rod suspension system has been implemented, the same sort that has been used on the Red Bull for years. A blade roll-hoop and split air intake, unpopular but possibly promising choices, have also been used on the T128.

A Renault engine will give them a boost in fuel efficiency, but more than likely a drop in reliability, considering Cosworth’s good performance last year.

With all of these changes since 2010, it is a considerable achievement that a 18-month-old team could consider challenging for points. It seems well within reason for them to do this, so 2011 could be a fantastic improvement for Lotus.

HRT

HRT won't turn a wheel until Melbourne

HRT won't turn a wheel until Melbourne

Hispania Racing, just starting their 2nd Formula 1 season, still have the shockingly awful record of not running at a single test session in their history.

There are reasons, of course, why the team couldn’t attend the Barcelona test, but it is still a PR disaster for a team looking for sponsors to not be able to turn a wheel until the season opener. Where have we heard that line before…

I don’t mean to appear biased, but there is little good to speak of Hispania so far this year. The livery is an exceptional improvement from the horrid F110, but the F111 displays only one sponsor, and this is not good news for a financially struggling team.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, however, may be able to show some good form. Having been dropped by Force India, he now needs to prove that he can still race at the top level. Beating Narain Karthikeyan will obviously be his main target. Karthikeyan, who last raced in F1 for Jordan in 2005, has been competing in A1 GP and Superleague Formula since.

It’s not a bad line-up, but Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok were both promising drivers last year. Regardless, HRT’s aim will probably be to just keep up with their rivals.

With more time than 2010 to develop their car, the F111 should probably be an improvement, but we won’t know until Melbourne.

Virgin

An all-CFD approach may not pay off for Virgin

An all-CFD approach may not pay off for Virgin

Once again, Nick Wirth has led an all-CFD approach to the Virgin Racing MVR-02, and it appears to bring the same disadvantages as last year.

A lack of underfloor aero simulation has left the Virgin car underdeveloped again this year. The last car to never see a wind tunnel was the epic disaster of the 1997 MasterCard Lola team, which survived one race – 13 seconds off the pace. In qualifying, seeing as they never made the race.

Timo Glock is pessimistic, saying that he doubts they will reach the midfield, meaning the team may have to dice it out with HRT again in 2011.

Testing highlighted their woes. Many wasted days were spent miles off the pace, with Jerome D’Ambrosio bearing the brunt of not being able to set a single fast time over several days.

With Timo Glock recovering after surgery, the team have suffered by not having any experienced hands develop the car, and it will probably show in Melbourne.

No testing for HRT?

HRT now face the prospect of not running their 2011 car until Melbourne

HRT now face the prospect of not running their 2011 car until Melbourne

After unveiling their 2011 car in the pitlane in Barcelona today, Hispania were set to begin testing in the afternoon. However, after crucial parts being sent over were held by customs, the team are now faced with the prospect of beginning the season with absolutely no testing.

Of course, the team has been in this situation before. Last year, their F110 hadn’t turned a wheel before Friday Practice 2 in Bahrain. Today should have seen the team attend their first test session, but the dampers for the suspension are currently being held by customs, with no possibility of them arriving for tomorrow.

Team principal Colin Kolles has said:

"Unfortunately we could not get the dampers out of customs. The result of this is 
that we can't run tomorrow. This is life and we will overcome this problem."

The consolation for the team is that they have slight experience of the new Pirelli tyres, as both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan have driven the F110 with 2011-spec tyres.

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