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Mat Coch writes:
HRT received some good news yesterday in what has been a dark week for the Spanish team. Facing the prospect of closing its doors shortly after the Brazilian Grand Prix if a buyer can't be found the team was also staring down the barrel of the 107% rule heading into qualifying.
After failing to qualify for the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the year the rear of the grid outfit has been an ever present at each Grand Prix since. Early in the season the team threatened the likes of Marussia, though as the development race took off HRT fell back from its rivals.
Things looked to have come to a head this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas. A brand new circuit giving up minimal grip, the gap between the front runners and HRT was stretched almost to breaking point, prompting concern in the build-up to qualifying that the Spanish team may be on an early flight to Sao Paulo.
"From the first sessions, all teams have had trouble warming their tyres up but in our case it is particularly difficult due to low aerodynamic support," confessed the team's Technical Director Toni Cuquerella (above). "In the morning with the cold track we struggled to put in good lap times and the difference to the fastest time was too big. Fortunately, conditions changed for the afternoon and track temperatures rose notably which, together with some set up adjustments, allowed us to get the tyres within the working temperature range."
Narain Karthikeyan faced an uncomfortable wait when his car stopped on track. As the clock ticked down the Indian was forced to watch from the sidelines, beating the 107% time by little more than half a second. "We had a problem with the fuel pick up that we are now looking into," he said after the session. "We don't expect it to be a problem for tomorrow's race.
"It was not easy and is still not perfect," added Pedro de la Rosa. "I knew that it would be a lot better than yesterday and this morning on my out lap I could already feel the tyres switching on. We've struggled bringing them up to temperature all weekend and finally in qualifying we managed to.
"But (the) grip level is still pretty low," he continued. "At this track we are still far from our direct competitors."
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