HRT struggle in opening practice sessions

Fri, 25 Mar 12:14:00 2011

Formula One strugglers Hispania toiled through the night to get their cars ready for practice, but only Vitantonio Liuzzi emerged from the garage to ironic cheers two minutes before the end of the second session.

- 0

The Italian managed a single lap at Albert Park before heading back to the pits, while Indian team mate Narain Karthikeyan was left to cool his heels as HRT's hopes of qualifying for Sunday appeared increasingly slim.

Team boss Colin Kolles put a positive spin on the day's proceedings, despite the team facing an enormous task after bringing completely untested cars to Melbourne.

"Tomorrow we can have a normal day, with both cars running on the track," Kolles said. "Tomorrow will be another day of hard work and hopefully more progress."

HRT personnel were found within the confines of the Albert Park circuit overnight, the FIA said in a statement, breaking a new rule barring mechanics from circuits for six-hour periods before Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

The rule is aimed at sparing mechanics from all-night shifts, but teams are permitted four individual exceptions in a season.

"This was the first of four individual exceptions permitted for the HRT team during the 2011 Formula One Championship season and therefore no action should be taken," the FIA said.

The Spanish-owned team had blamed a hold-up in customs for their failure to test their cars in Barcelona.

They also missed much of Friday practice in the season-opener at Bahrain last year as they rushed to complete the cars.

India's first F1 driver Karthikeyan, who signed to HRT in January after six years away from the sport, conceded he had concerns about the car's pace in a news conference on Thursday, with the "107 percent" rule re-introduced this season.

The rule, cancelled last year to help the championship's new teams, requires drivers to be within 107 per cent of the fastest time to qualify for Sunday's race.

Virgin Racing, fellow debutants last year along with Team Lotus, may also fall foul of the rule after drivers Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock finished at the bottom of the heap in both practice sessions.

The quicker of the pair, d'Ambrosio posted a lap of one minute 32.106 seconds on his F1 debut, well outside 107 per cent of Jenson Button's fastest lap of 1:25.854.

"Clearly we're not where we need to be at the moment so we have to study the data and look at what we can do to improve," said team principal John Booth.

Reuters

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account