x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

I'm sorry Hispania, but rules are rules

I felt bad about not allowing the Hispania Racing Team to take part in Australia, but you cannot compete in F1 on the cheap. The bottom line is that Liuzzi and Karthikeyan were just not fast enough.

HRT's Vitantonio Liuzzi looks on during second qualifying session on Saturday. Daniel Munoz / Reuters
HRT's Vitantonio Liuzzi looks on during second qualifying session on Saturday. Daniel Munoz / Reuters

I felt bad about not allowing the Hispania Racing Team (HRT) to take part in Australia, but you cannot compete in Formula One on the cheap.

The bottom line is that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan were just not fast enough.

I was the drivers' representative on the panel of stewards in Melbourne and we could not let them race. Their cars were too slow.



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Their best time was two seconds off the pace of next slowest car, and Karthikeyan's quickest effort was more than 10 seconds behind Sebastian Vettel's pole position time in his Red Bull Racing car.

With that much of a difference between them and the rest of the field, it would have been dangerous having them on track and having cars coming up to them at much greater speed.

The "107 per cent rule" — that cars must get within 107 per cent of the fastest time in part one of qualifying — was brought back this year to ensure there is a minimum standard of pace from the cars at the back of the field.

As the stewards, we had to look at the circumstances leading up to neither Liuzzi nor Karthikeyan setting an acceptable lap time.

With the facts we had there was no way we could responsibly allow them to race. It was not a particularly nice decision, but it was the only one we could make.

Their poor performance was not surprising, really. They had done just eight laps in that car all weekend and had done no testing of the chassis during the winter.

I think they did just one installation lap on Friday and a couple of practice laps on the Saturday before they attempted to qualify.

That is not enough by anyone's standard and the fact they have done no serious running in the car was a huge concern as well as the safety concern.

They had tested their old car in Barcelona, but had been unable to do any work with the new car because they had problems getting their equipment through customs in Spain.

This serves as proof that if you are going to compete in F1, you need to do it a proper manner. You cannot do it cheaply and try and cut corners. It ends up being very embarrassing when you fall short.

Hopefully this setback will give the team the kick they need to get ready to compete properly in Malaysia with the right funding.

The people I feel sorry for in this situation are the HRT drivers and the mechanics, who frankly did an amazing job to even get the car out and running.

In my early days in the sport at Lotus, I had a couple of years in an uncompetitive car. Nothing as bad as the Hispania, but all the same a package where I was unlikely to get off the back two or three rows in qualifying, even if I did a good job.

In the situation that Liuzzi and Karthikeyan are in, all they can do is stay motivated and work to the logic that all drivers in a team work to - the first person you have to beat is your teammate.

Beat your teammate in every practice and qualifying session and then finish ahead of them in the race.

That way you may get noticed by other teams. If you can show a bit about yourself, even in a slow car, then you have a chance of being picked up by a more competitive team and you have the opportunity to further your career.

Whether Liuzzi and Karthikeyan have the chance to do that only time will tell as to have the chance to show what you can do on track you have to be able to get the car out there, something that Hispania were unable to do in Australia.

Also in Melbourne, there was a decision to disqualify the Sauber team. It was unfortunate, but their rear wing did not fully comply with the FIA regulations and there was no choice but to exclude Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi from the results.

It was a shame as they both drove well, particularly Perez in his first race, and he did an amazing job as he stopped just once for tyres.

Apparently there was still a reasonable amount of rubber on the set he finished on, which was a remarkable effort.

But, unfortunately, the rules were clear and we had no choice but to disqualify them.


Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver with three career victories. His column is written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill.