Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

107 Per Cent
Ryan Gault

Ryan is one of those people who follow every sport going, from football to speedway and golf to ice hockey. He has followed Formula 1 for as long as he can remember, which just so happens to be the 2001 US Grand Prix, Mika Häkkinen's last ever win. Since then he has followed the tribulations of the greatest Swiss team since he heard about Grasshoppers Zürich, Sauber. Currently studying Journalism at the University of Huddersfield, while also attempting to write about TV and Eurovision.

Everybody HRTs - How do you entice potential buyers for the team at the back of the grid?


Caja Mágica complex
Credit: Hispania Racing

La Caja Mágica has been spruced up for a few weeks while potential buyers trawl around the HRT factory. Keeping true to the late hero of BBC daytime television Kristian Digby, and his sadly shortlived Open House, Thesan Capital and Luis Pérez-Sala have gone around the factory putting the cushions straight, making the show cars look extra sparkly, and hiding all the rubbish behind a locked door that no one is allowed to enter.

And what do you know, moments after putting up the ‘for sale’ sign at the entrance, an interested party has come around for a look already. He’s based in the middle-east, which could easily mean one of two things. He has pockets as deep as the lowest reaches of the Pacific, or, like QADBAK, he just says he has pockets that deep. Off camera, Thesan Capital say that more people have come around for a look, enquired about prices, whether they can keep the pictures in reception, but no firm offers have been made to date.

Several careful owners

So what are the selling points as listed in the brochure? Arguably the main one, listed in big red lettering and bold font, is that the team have a space on the grid for 2013. There’s no need to go through a drawn-out procedure set in place by the FIA, only to be told that you are financially incapable of running an F1 team, in this case you can just buy HRT and there you go. It’s all yours, and with it you get to keep all the hard working employees who have worked tirelessly just to keep up with Marussia.

In fact, it’s a whole lot better than starting from scratch. You inherit three years of hard work and graft which has managed to produce three cars built on top of foundations ready to collapse. HRT have never had solid grounds to build a team from, never had the funds which allowed them to proceed. Their initial entry, submitted by Adrian Campos, nearly followed USF1 in not making the grid for the 2010 season. Lengthy negotiations and simply a lack of having any money at all led to the last minute decision by José Ramón Carabante, the majority shareholder, to take full control of the team. It was the slice of cake that USF1 never had.

But fortunes have never improved, 2010 was an attempt to stay alive. The first time the car took to the track was the first practice session in Bahrain and for the entire season they were unable to upgrade the car. None of their four drivers they raced in 2010 completed all the races, with even pay driver Sakon Yamamoto set aside for several races with a nasty bout of Christian-Klien-is-paying-more-itis, or food poisoning.

Rise and fall

It worked though, they continued into 2011 with much the same issues. The start of the season was worse than in 2010, the reintroduction of the 107% rule forced the team to sit out in Australia. The ride was at least, somewhat easier. The helpful cash injection by Red Bull to put Daniel Ricciardo in the car for half the season not only helped the team to finance themselves, but helped them to 11th in the standings for the second successive season, beating the somewhat superior Marussia in the process, and on the rare occasion, even on the track.

Hispania racing on their own
Hispania racing on their ownCredit: Hispania Racing

2012 however, has just been one repeat after another, and ultimately this has proven to be the limit of stagnation at the back of the grid. They have looked more lively, at times mixing in with Marussia during qualifying, but always falling away during the race. Pedro de la Rosa has driven his socks off, especially in comparison to Narain Karthikeyan, but it’s all been for nothing. The car is clearly the 12th best on the grid, and unless some sort of miracle occurs in the final two races, they will finish stone dead last in the standings.

The F112 has suffered an alarming amount of mechanical failures, highlighting the lack of funds the team have to make a reliable car. HRT have completed the fewest laps out of all the teams, at only 78.5% (in comparison, Caterham have completed 90% and Marussia 92.1% of the races, which is joint third best on the grid)[1]. Most recently, hydraulic failure forced Karthikeyan’s car to slow and launch an unsuspecting Nico Rosberg over the top. Karthikeyan was fortunate the accident wasn’t worse.

It’s at this point that you want to look at the small print, the realisation that HRT are running on fumes and have been for some time. The attraction is limited, as Joe Saward pointed out in his latest article about HRT: ‘there is no money in Spain and a team outside the top 10 in F1 does not have a huge value’, it’s an unattractive option, and for anyone who isn’t super rich, who would want to buy into a team drowning in the sea of debt?

The sinking ship

This year he’s stuck with de la Rosa and Karthikeyan throughout the season and has seen results improve at times

HRT have had a solid run considering they never had the money to do anything other than survive. Despite being the subject of constant jokes over the years, they’ve performed admirably just to get the car on the track every weekend.

In that time I’ve grown to love Luis Pérez-Sala, whose constant optimism no matter how badly the team are doing is something to be admired, along with generally having to put up with doing nothing. He’s managed to bring some stability to the team, this year he’s stuck with de la Rosa and Karthikeyan throughout the season and has seen results improve at times. He’s the loyal man trapped at the wheel of a sinking ship, the Terry Connor at Wolves, the Edward John Thomas at the Titanic, if you will.

The team are in huge trouble though, they need money and while the management remain hopeful, it’s all up in the air on finding a buyer to save the team. If this was Open House, Kristian Digby would be having to make a lot of hopeful phone calls, and it would be exciting television right before Bargain Hunt.

[1] Formula 1 Reliability, Engine and Gearbox Statistics - Viva F1