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9 Dec 2012

During the 2009 season it was made public that spaces would be granted to new teams wishing to enter Formula One. An inspired move by the FIA that had already seen Honda withdraw at the end of 2008 and with the economy in bad shape more 'Manufacturer' teams were likely to follow. The promise of a less constrained Technical Regulation set and 40 Million budget cap was enough to entice around 15 entrants. Having issued their interest in joining F1 the FIA set about due diligence tests on them deciding that 3 new teams would be given places on the 2010 grid: USF1, Campos-Meta & Manor Grand Prix. The FIA were right in their assessment of the 'Manufacturer' teams with both BMW and Toyota withdrawing from the 2010 Championship, in June 2009 and November 2009 respectively. The largest problem that these 'Manufacturers' faced was the cost of F1, without the foresight to sell their engines their costs all remained in house.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but had the FIA worked with BMW/Toyota rather than Cosworth, all parties costs may have been covered and increased the manufactures global exposure. This is something that Renault have embraced when selling a 75% share in their own team to Genii Capital at the end of 2009 and latterly the remaining 25% was bought by Genii in 2010. RenaultSport currently supplies 4 teams (Red Bull Racing, Lotus F1 Team, Williams & Caterham) providing them with a means of expansive global exposure whilst costing them fairly little in return.

BMW Sauber's withdrawral drew interest from several parties who wished to buy the remains of the team but it was Peter Sauber himself who reclaimed the team. The FIA granted Sauber their place on the grid when Toyota announced their exit from the sport leveraging a deal that would see them keep the BMW name for 2010 granting them their prize money from 2009's championship positioning whilst using Ferrari Engines/Powertrains. Toyota's exit from the sport came off the back of a fairly successful 2009 campaign with the Japanese marque seeing off many of their rivals to 5th place. However without Honda it seemed the Japanese company didn't feel it necessary to embroil itself in an expensive motorsport campaign that didn't achieve it's needs.

BMW Sauber's withdrawal also opened the door for 1Malaysia Racing Teams entry into the sport with the team taking the moniker 'Lotus Racing' for which they paid Group Lotus (The car manufacturer) a license fee to use. The idea behind this was to leverage some of the historic significance of Colin Chapman's original Lotus team. Veiled behind this was the outfits desire to run under the 'Team Lotus' banner something they did in 2011 having purchased the rights from David Hunt. Group Lotus believed this broke the terms of the original agreement and started a lengthy battle between the two parties over the use of the Lotus name in F1. The original intentions of Fernandes, SM Nasarudin and Kamarudin Meranun I believe was to use the F1 team as a vehicle of which to convince the Malaysian government to sell Proton Holdings (Of which Group Lotus was also owned) to them further fortifying the Naza brand and turning them into a manufacturer as well as a distributor.

In an attempt to continue the tenuous link established to Colin Chapman, in early 2011 Tony Fernandes announced his acquisition of Caterham Cars. The team would relinquish their use of 'Team Lotus' in 2012 and instead race as 'Caterham F1 Team'. A move that no doubt made life much easier for both the commentators and fans due to Genii Capitals involvement with Group Lotus and their 'Lotus F1 Team' moniker/title sponsorship.

Working to such a short window of opportunity led to the demise of the USF1 team, the team had showed much promise early on but failed to secure the funding needed to make the cut ahead of the 2010 season. This left Campos-Meta and Manor Grand Prix who themselves were to be put under financial strain as the aforementioned budget cap didn't come to fruition. Campos-Meta owned by Adrian Campos and was to be funded by Meta ran into financial difficulties early on leaving the Dallara chassis they had ordered in limbo. Campos' partner, Jose Ramon Carabante rescued the team buying out the former F1 driver and installing Colin Kolles as team principal. Campos-Meta was renamed Hispania Racing F1 (HRT) and although had missed the pre season tests made it's way to Bahrain hoping to compete. This battle of finance, national loyalty and tardiness underpins the way in which HRT have been seen within F1 not only by the fans but potential sponsors. As the economic environment has worsened in Spain the team has stayed resolute in it's national support bringing further financial burden to the team as the car remains largely devoid of sponsors.

The 2010 season saw HRT seriously off the pace, the team blamed this mainly on the poor chassis delivered to them by Dallara. With an underwhelming Aero package mated to a Cosworth engine and Xtrac Gearbox the team struggled with reliability as well as development. The problem not only for HRT but all of the 3 new teams was that the new regulations had started a year earlier. On top of this many of the teams had been preparing for 09 in advance to steal a march on their rivals. The F110's basic aerodynamic silhouette at first glance seemed basic but sound.

The teams financial hardship and ownership transference early it's birth resulted in a torrid relationship with Dallara whom had been tasked with providing the 2010 challenger. The funding issues the team faced meant the team were late receiving the chassis' from Dallara. This in turn meant that Hispania missed the pre season tests which could have provided them with some much needed track time with the F110. Furthermore the team (Still not having turned a wheel) arrived in Bahrain unprepared and shook the car down during qualifying, having missed the three practice sessions.

The team fielded 4 drivers throughout the 2010 season mainly due to the funding of the team, Bruno Senna who financially bought the most backing to the team competed in 18 of the 19 races. Karun Chandhok competed in the first 10 races of the season and was arguably the better/more consistent of the two. He was replaced by Sakon Yanamoto who had previous F1 experience but undoubtedly bought some financial reward in exchange for his seat.

Scathing comments from Christien Klein (Test Driver) and Geoff Willis (Technical Consultant) about the quality of engineering of the F110 provided an insight into the difficulties in producing an F1 car on a small budget. Dallara have been building open wheel race cars for decades and should have been more than capable of producing a worthy F1 machine. The problem however is Dallara have been producing spec series cars where the differentiator is setup, F1 requires a much more open ended approach. Aerodynamically cars change from circuit to circuit to suit the characteristics of the given track but in 2010 HRT didn't make these changes. Their 2010 campaign centered around the team understanding the chassis given to them by Dallara and reducing the weight of other components on the car. The financial stresses and bad feeling between the two resulted in them parting company by round 6 of the Championship.  The team didn't develop upgrades for the F110 in 2010 bar the required replacement of the outboard mirrors.

Dallara had taken design cues from other leading cars notably the RB5 styled narrow nose with nosecone to bulkhead shoulders and elongated Cascade wings. All 3 new teams had bulky rear ends housing the Cosworth and Xtrac Gearboxes and taking care of cooling requirements but all adopted different exhaust solutions. The launch version of the F110 sported HUGE Front Brake ducts that would clearly impinge on both the mechanical performance of the brakes and hinder the aerodynamic performance downstream. The team did blank off portions of the ducts throughout the season to increase braking performance but failed to develop new ducts that may have improved their aerodynamic performance. Further gains were made by the team by reducing component weight throughout the car meaning come the season end they appeared to be able to use much more ballast.

The new teams resources all fell foul of being a year late to the new Technical Regulations and though 2010 still provided us with the use of Double Deck Diffusers (DDD) the interpretation used by these teams was un-inspired. Meanwhile the rest of the grid had learnt lessons from 2009 and had fully integrated/performance yielding DDD's.

Above: Dallara's attempts at a Double Decked Diffuser on the F110

On top of this McLaren arrived with their RW80 or as the mainstream media dubbed it: F-Duct. The drag reducing device that stalled the Rear Wing gave the McLaren team a significant straightline boost and with the FIA declaring the device legal the other teams hurriedly went off to design their own version. Both the cost and time frame to develop their own F Duct prohibited the 3 new teams from joining this race for a superior device further damning their efforts to join the sport at a competitive level.

By Novemeber 2010 the team had in place a Technical partnership with Williams for 2011 which would see them utilise their Gearbox and Hydraulics. Craig Scarborough wrote an insightful piece at the time on the application of the Williams deal:

The F111 was simply a re-imagining of it's predecessor, lack of funds, facilities and personnel meant the team simply tried to work out some of the kinks of the F110. The team also tried and failed in a bid to purchase the still born Toyota TF110 and make use of their facilities in Cologne. (Speculation surrounds how much information Geoff Willis gleaned from the TF110 in the potential takeover) The TF110 that was eventually purchased by StefanGP and never raced had a innovative Front Wing arrangement with Cascades that formed as part of the Endplates, a practice that started to have further bearing during 2012. 

Above: The stillborn TF110 of which HRT tried to purchase for their 2011 campaign.  The car is shown above in the defunct StefanGP colours that tried to make the grid in 2010 & 2011 but was rejected by the FIA

Once again due to financial and timing issues the team failed to make the pre season tests with the F111 but did run an interim spec F110 they called the F110+ that featured the new Williams Gearbox. Upon arrival at the first race in Melbourne they failed to show until very late into Free Practice 3.

Encumbered by the F110's low bulkhead/chassis the F111 continued to feature a low nose tip reducing the amount of air that could be directed centrally under the car. At the first race of the season in Melbourne the team arrived without the F111's Nose/Front Wing as it was still to pass the crash tests and instead attempted to qualify with the F110's Nose/Front Wing (Above). The team fell foul of the re-introduced 107% rule and were unable to race. This changed when the team arrived at Malaysia with their new Front Wing and the team qualified with around a second to the 107% limit.

Above: The F111's Front Wing is almost a carbon copy of the one used on the Championship winning BGP001 of 2009.

Copying a concept is all well and good and the multi facted endplate design of the F111's Front Wing was a huge leap forward for HRT. However with Pirelli supplying the tyres and yielding a different construction to the Bridgestones of 09 a different aerodynamic attitude platform is created and so the Wing designed for the 2009 winner may not have been the best fit for 2011.

RW80 / F-Ducts were banned at the end of 2010 but the FIA took from this the need to reduce drag to aid overtaking. They introduced DRS (Drag Reduction System) which allowed the driver to alter the angle of the rear wing top flap reducing drag. HRT used a centralised pylon in order to incorporate their DRS mechanism something that other teams on the grid also used. Strangely the team decided not to use Louvres on the Rear Wing Endplates (These are used to reduce drag at the outer tips on the top flap creating a more efficient Wing)

The team redesigned the Sidepods including the entry and undercut which was one of the aerodynamic failings of it's predecessors. New bargeboards featured in front of this meanwhile behind now incorporating the Williams Gearbox the bodywork became a little more svelt. Some interesting design considerations were made around and above the diffuser / starter motor with the exhausts placed either side of the crash structure. The tuning lengths involved in having the exhaust outlets that far back on the car would be interesting to say the least almost certainly compromising engine performance.

Above: We can see in this picture the layout/angle of the radiators within the Sidepod. Mysteriously the team decided to place them in a halfway house position. Although they do sit more vertical the convention at the time was to tilt the radiator to allow more airflow vs reducing the space required to house the rad.

Some interesting design considerations were made around and above the diffuser / starter motor with the exhausts placed either side of the crash structure. The tuning lengths involved in having the exhaust outlets that far back on the car would be interesting to say the least almost certainly compromising engine performance.

With the DDD's banned for 2011 teams re explored avenues to extrapolate performance from the Diffuser. Red Bull kicked things off with their EBD (Exhaust Blown Diffuser) that positioned the exhaust so that the exhaust plume could manipulate the air between the Tyre and the floor creating a 'Seal'. This also lead to the implementation of Off Throttle blowing allowing a more consistent exhaust plume delaying the effect of downforce loss as the exhaust plume dissipated as the driver came off the throttle.

Unlike their 2010 baptism of fire the team seemed intent on bringing updates periodically during 2011 the first arriving in China with a Shark-Fin less engine cover.

Then in Istanbul the team arrived with new Rear Wing Endplates that featured the aforementioned missing louvres.

For Monaco the team added a Monkey Seat

The team arrived in Montreal with a new exhaust layout, utilising the blown diffuser effect, they placed their exhaust a little further forward on the car than others as the Cosworth engine was unable to utilise the same Off Throttle blowing effects seen on the Renault powered cars. Placing the exhaust further forward means the less consistent exhaust plume doesn't affect performance as badly.

Amidst the teams 2011 campaign Jose Roman Carabante sold the controlling stake in the team to Thesan Capital a Madrid based investment company that stated they wished to make the team more Spanish. Their intention was to move the operation to Spain in order to further align their operations creating a more viable sponsorship attraction to Spanish investors. It appears Thesan Capital did not share the same vision as Colin Kolles who had guided the team as Team Principal up until this point, they parted company in December making way for Luis Perez-Sala.

For 2012 the team would field their own car for the first time rather than the original Dallara F110 being backwards engineered for 2011 with a new Chassis based on the F110 built by CarboTech to pass the new side impact protection tests. 
As in previous seasons HRT failed to make the pre season tests and arrived in Australia having only driven 100KM, completed at a shakedown. Their 2012 challenger failed the initial crash tests and so as had happened in 2011 the team failed to qualify missing the 107% target.

The F112's launch images showed that they, just as others had, used the rules to incorporate a high tip nose but failed in it's overall mission as the tub still lay relatively low. This meant the tub sloped back from from the nose and resulted in too much bodywork above the splitter. The clean airflow that the raised nose allowed would quickly stagnate around the monocoque. The Front Wing was a copy of the F111's without the cascades, very basic turning vanes drooped below the nose whilst the Bargeboards were removed entirely. Tighter packaging at the rear could help airflow over the top of the floor but the exhaust solution unlike most of the field was designed to blow under the Rear Wing. The F112 was designed with KERS in mind but the team opted not to use the system initially to better understand the relative performance of the car. 

Above: Barcelona saw the team implement the first major upgrade with a new less complicated Front Wing design with a Singular Top Flap and new Cascades (The Front Wing upto now had received the same Cascades used on the F111, as the launch one had them deleted) basic turning vanes drooped from under the nose and serrated Bargeboards were added too. The car also featured a new Rear Wing Endplate design which altered the geometry of the Louvres along with the leading and trailing edge profiles.

In Monaco the team ran with a Monkey Seat to generate some additional downforce

In Montreal the team arrived with a new lower downforce Rear Wing setup

The team went through many changes throughout it's first 3 seasons in F1 but financial worries dogged the team throughout. By far the least funded team on the grid the team did well to finish ahead of the Virgin / Marussia team in 2010/11 which would have awarded them more financial reward via FOM winnings. The new Concorde Agreement that Bernie Ecclestone has been negotiating with the teams may well have laid the foundations for Thesan Capital to put HRT up for sale:
The new Concorde Agreement is said to only offer FOM prize money to those teams that finish in the top 10 at the end of the season. This funding is a much needed requirement for teams like HRT who would use it as a way of funding some of their transportation costs.
It seems the final chapter of HRT was written when the team were unable to find new buyers and missed the 2013 Entry deadline. The entry fee is a small price to pay at 500,000 euro's you may argue but with the team racking up debts the team seem to have turned their last wheel in anger in F1.

So what can be learnt from the demise of the team in F1? From a financial standpoint the team were initially let down by the eventual loss of the Budget Cap proposed for 2010. The initial figure put forward by Max Mosley and the FIA was £40 Million which was designed to minimise the costs involved in competing in F1. Teams like HRT (or Campos-Meta) at the time had used this figure in order to understand what was achievable in F1. In principle HRT had a great plan, by asking Dallara to make their 2010 chassis they could budget for the rest of what was required by the team and allowed them to run with a relatively low number of in-house staff. When the Budget cap didn't come to fruition it meant even their 2 closest rivals were able to overspend them if they could raise the funds. In reality for the budget cap to have worked it would have meant a figure somewhere between £60-80 Million as this would have enabled some of the then lower grid placed teams to also take advantage of the cap. The enticement of free-er Technical Regulations mated with a sustainable budget could have led to some interesting concepts and racing.

HRT's shortcomings was foremost their budget, this impacted on their punctuality with the team missing the pre season tests of 2010 losing valuable mileage and setup time compared to their rivals.

It's believed that the team ran for just shy of £60 Million in 2010 & 11 which when compared to the likes of Red Bull Racing who spend around 3 times that seems impressive. This proves that racing in F1 can be cost efficient but to be competitive a lot more money is required.

So what sort of business model can be effective in F1?

Well the obvious ones are to be backed by Manufacturers or to find substantial backing from large corporations. These will always remain the best way in which to survive in F1 but other avenues are available. HRT exploited pay drivers throughout their first 3 years but perhaps not to their full advantage more latterly.
For 2012 HRT ran with 2 drivers: Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan, the team chose Pedro for nationality purposes and although he may well have a small collection of personal sponsors they offered nothing like the reported 8 Million Euro's bought to the team from TATA by Narain. The team also took on another Spanish Driver: Dani Clos as their 3rd driver who likely bought a little money to the team via his Free Practice drives at Silverstone, Hockenheim & Hungaroring.

It could be argued that teams like HRT could help with the transition of drivers from lower formula to F1. Red Bull used this to their advantage in 2011 when they reportedly paid the team around 5 Million Euro's for Daniel Ricciardo to drive the last 10 races of the season. Ricciardo went on to drive the Toro Rosso STR7 in 2012 after satisfying the owners of Red Bull that he was deserving of his place within the driver programme.

Many drivers need a route to F1 and being able to drive even with a less competitive team like HRT could offer them the chance to be seen. Selling Free Practice sessions to future talent could have provided the team with a much need cash injection and the drivers expenses would be covered by their own sponsors. This leads me onto the next way of generating funds, by having these drivers onboard their car it would give the team access to the sponsors themselves something the team struggled with throughout it's time in F1.

If we look back at 2009, BrawnGP although still partly funded by Honda after their withdrawal opted to do race by race sponsorship deals. With the help of Richard Branson's Virgin group the team quickly realised that they could do deals based on the locality of the race itself. Sponsors that had previously never been seen in F1 suddenly had the power to leverage cost effective sponsorship and helped to fund BrawnGP's Championship year. Of course we know HRT aren't Championship material but costs are all relative and so gaining sponsorship in this way is certainly an option I'd explore under team ownership.

Of course all of these options were overridden by the teams unwavering belief that their Spanish nationality was the most important aspect of their image. The problem being that the economic downturn has effected Spain immensely and so gaining sponsorship from the region proved hard at best.

What I believe the FIA/the sport should also take away from this is that F1 is still fragile in terms of finances and just like HRT many teams will need to adjust their behavior to survive. It could be argued that there is an opportunity for 3rd cars or customer cars but even this would change the face of F1 beyond recognition.

All in all I will miss HRT, I admired their ethos even though it seemed misguided at times. Their relative success of 2010/11 was driven by their ability to extract performance from a relatively unchanged car something the likes of Red Bull, McLaren & Ferrari have been unable to do over recent years. With the top teams spending inordinate amounts of money on resources and developments the delta to the lower teams will always become larger but HRT for the large part kept up.  They did what they could with a small budget creating a baseline and concentrating on mechanical performance and High/Low downforce aerodynamic upgrade configurations.


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  3. Thanks for this. It was very insightful, and it's good to read something intelligent and positive about HRT for a change, rather than all the uninformed potshots fired at whoever happens to be last.

  4. All those pictures was so amazing! That Formula1 racing cars was definitely awesome. My fleet maintenance manager would surely want to drive this car!


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