- Best Finish: 13th (Liuzzi, Canada)
- Points Scored: 0
- Championship position: 11th
Overall 2011 has been a job well done for HRT. Aside from their failure to qualify in Australia the team have shown improvement from last season, finding themselves much closer to Virgin Racing and often beating the British team in qualifying. Seems that super-gluing a few new bits to an old car and getting a new paintjob is a legitimate strategy for improving performance.
Status: Sleeping Dogs
But what’s really helped has been the addition of Tonio Liuzzi who, whilst not the fastest driver to grace F1, has the experience needed to give the team direction on setup and, occasionally, put in a very professional drive.
The Italian has gone about his job well and is unquestionably more use to the team than last year’s combination of Senna and Chandhok was. He is the only driver to out-qualify his team-mate at every race this season and has often lined up ahead of a Virgin: he beat Timo Glock in Turkey and has defeated Jerome d’Ambrosio on four occasions. He’s been solid in the races too, bringing the car home a respectable 13th in Canada and thus sending his team ahead of Virgin the constructors’ standings.
Is he enjoying it? It doesn’t look fun and you’d hardly blame the lad if at the end of the season he decides to go race sportscars and, y’know, actually compete. But some drivers simply can’t turn their back on F1. Top marks to Tonio for giving it his all this year.
Narain Karthikeyan lived up to the very low expectations most observers had of him pre-season. Totally unable to match Tonio, struggling physically and generally getting in the way, it was no surprise that the team elected to replace him when it became a financially viable option. He’ll return for his home grand prix, which is nice and everything, but from a racing point-of-view totally pointless.
Daniel Ricciardo was rated as a star of the future before he was slotted in at HRT and has done little to tarnish that reputation. There have been no silly mistakes, no drams and some very encouraging performances. In Hungary – only his third GP – he qualified within a tenth of the experienced Liuzzi and beat the Italian in the race. If he can out-qualify the Italian before the season’s out – and chance are he will – he’ll have ticked all the boxes Red Bull asked him to. A Toro Rosso drive should be his reward for 2012.
Badger’s Best: Liuzzi