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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 24) - Spanish sunset // The HRT team wave goodbye to F1 after a difficult season and a sad end

Published by Christine Blachford

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Hello, welcome along to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, this is our penultimate episode. We’ve covered most of the season so far, and before we get to the final deciding race of the year, there’s just one other topic that needs to be covered. This is Day 24 - Spanish sunset.

Towards the latter half of the season, it became apparent that HRT were struggling. Not for pace, that had never really been their strong point, but for their own existence. Rumours started circulating that they were running low on spare parts, and were perhaps even using parts that had gone beyond their useful life. This was strongly denied by the team, including driver Pedro de la Rosa, but their actions showed there was definitely a lack of spare carbon fibre.

Ahead of the US Grand Prix, the team were put up for sale by owners Thesan Capital. After just over a year of ownership, the Spanish investment firm were looking to move upwards and onwards, despite moving HRT to new lodgings, with a factory in Madrid. The news was a big blow to the employees of the team, particularly with morale already low.

In Austin, Pedro de la Rosa wasn’t sure the team would be able to qualify, he said: “I’m not confident, it’s marginal. It will depend on whether we manage to get into the tyre-temperature window, which we were definitely not getting on Friday. This is our biggest issue.” They did manage to qualify, although Narain Karthikeyan stopped out on track during the first session.

In the Brazil practice sessions, the team completed significantly fewer laps than those around them. FP1 was 28 laps between the two drivers, whereas most of the others were completing 30 each. FP2 was a similar story, 15 laps each for De la Rosa and Karthikeyan, and again just 33 laps between them for the final hour of practice on Saturday.

Again, De la Rosa was worried about his team, saying: “It’s not easy for anybody, especially the mechanics and engineers who from now on have to fight for their future because we don’t know what will happen... We have to assume the team will continue and that we still have to do the best possible job and forget about all this. It’s easy to say but difficult to do, but people are being very professional.”

The team got through their final race of the year, both drivers finishing the race two laps down - but crucially getting to the end of what turned out to be a supremely chaotic Grand Prix. After that, it all went quiet on the HRT front - which was worrying in itself. The team had said they hoped to announce a buyer in the coming weeks, but there was no news.

In early December, the FIA released the entry list for the 2013 season, and whilst there were plenty of teams with drivers missing, the most notable absentee was the HRT team in their entirety. They hadn’t managed to find a buyer in time to supply the entry fee to the FIA and thus were booted from the entry list.

There’s been no official word from the team, but as they can not participate in next season regardless of whether they do find a buyer or not, it is fair to assume that HRT’s Formula One career is over. Technical Director of the team Toni Cuquerella took to Twitter to suggest as much, saying: “Four years ago I suggested to a friend to make an F1 team. Today, after three seasons, he has written the last page of HRT. Good luck friends.”

And so it seems we wave goodbye to HRT. After three years in the sport, eight drivers, two races they didn’t qualify for, thirty two official retirements, zero points, no finish higher than 14th place, two eleventh places at season’s end and one twelfth place, we bid them adieu. It’s never nice to see a team fail, particularly if there is no seeming replacement for them, or buyer to keep the employees in business - a tough break, particularly just before Christmas.

As Cuquerella said, good luck to everyone involved.

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, thank you for listening. We have just one episode left and that will be on Christmas Day, so Merry Christmas in advance for that! I’ll see you then for Day 25.

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