The final piece in the driving jigsaw for the 2011 season fell into place today as Hispania announced Tonio Liuzzi as its second driver alongside Narain Karthikeyan. It’s good that the team has gone for someone with speed and experience, rather than opt for a pay driver as they were forced to do last season, with Sakon Yamamoto.
Liuzzi has raced for team principal Colin Kolles before and although his record in F1 is rather mixed, he undoubtedly has speed and an ability to get results. It’s just stringing results together consistently that he’s not managed to do in F1.
He has started 63 Grands Prix with three different teams; Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India, with whom he drove last season. Although he had a contract for 2011 he was eased out in favour of Paul di Resta.
His best result is a pair of sixth places, including last year in Korea, which was his strongest performance of the year. Ironically Kartikeyan has had a better result – a 4th place – but it was achieved in the notorious six car US Grand Prix of 2005 in Indianapolis.
“I have known Tonio for many years as he raced with me in lower categories,” said Kolles. “He is a very professional driver who will bring a lot of benefits to the Team. I am convinced about his skills to develop a car and his speed. He has shown this in the past having contributed to a large extend developing and moving a back grid car to the front.”
Hispania has yet to unveil its new car, that will happen on Friday lunchtime in Barcelona, meaning that the team has just a day and a half of testing at the most before shipping it to Melbourne for the first race. This is a little better than last year when the car ran for the first time during the opening weekend and one of the HRTs only ran for qualifying.
As i posted last year in Bahrain, there are many pitfalls to racing an untested car. One thing which will help them this year is the Williams gearbox and back end, which they have purchased and which is integrated with the Cosworth. This should boost performance and reliability. Another headache is the return of the 107% qualifying rule this year, which will mean that the HRT cars will have to be within around 5.8 seconds of the pole sitter to qualify.
Here’s a reminder of the first steps the team will take.
Cooling is the first thing to check. A car which overheats will not get far. However the general rule in F1 is that a car which cools really well is a slow car. Designers want to shrink wrap the bodywork over the car to get the best aerodynamics, so in a really quick car, the bodywork is often no more than 5mm away from the radiators.
Water temperatures typically run to 140 degrees, which is possible because the system is pressurized, while oil temperatures of 115 degrees are acceptable. If the oil gets any hotter than that it loses its lubricating properties and causes damage.
After the cooling has been verified, the engineers will begin the difficult process of learning about the tyres. Compared to last year they have the advantage of having tested the Pirellis on their old car, so the engineers will have a sense of the dynamics. Nevertheless, it will take HRT several Grand Prix weekends to learn how to set the car up, to get the load evenly balanced across all four tyres and get the correct balance between aero and tyre temperatures.
There aren’t too many short cuts here and even very experienced teams can get it wrong. This is a problem Brawn engineered into their car in the second half of the 2009 season, for example.