Formula One is, by and large, unwelcoming to teams without extensive resources at their disposal. HRT F1 have found this out to their detriment as, for the third straight year, they have struggled to produce a car that is reliable right from the word go.
After not getting either car within the qualifying cut-off in the opening round in Australia, the team looks to be in better shape at the hot and humid environs of the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. But it is still very much touch and go at the moment.
"F1 is very much rocket science and there is a lot that we have to figure out with the car at the moment," Narain Karthikeyan told HT from Sepang. "Today, I was within 105.2% of the best time (the qualifying cut-off is 107%), so it is still pretty close for us."
Karthikeyan will take some solace in outpacing his far more experienced teammate Pedro de la Rosa in both practice sessions on Friday, but his focus is on ensuring the car is reliable enough to complete an entire race distance.
Not enough testing
"We haven't yet done more than two flying laps with the car, so that's a worry," said Karthikeyan. "And we haven't as yet done a long run (at least six to seven consecutive laps)."
Due to cooling issues, the hydraulic systems of the cars were overheating in Australia, which affected the car's power steering and Drag Reduction System (DRS). Karthikeyan reckoned that the faulty DRS was worth almost a second a lap, and hampered the car's performance in Australia.
Much to address
With just a week between the races, the cooling issues resurfaced in the first practice at Sepang along with additional problems.
"We have to address issues with cooling, aerodynamics and mechanical grip," said Karthikeyan. "The rear tyres are getting worn out a lot because there isn't much mechanical grip."
With a laundry list of problems like these, Karthikeyan and the team are running in damage-limitation mode for the opening four races of the season.
Some much-needed respite should come for them in the form of a three-day test session at Mugello, Italy from 1-3 May, as in-season testing returns to F1 after a three-year ban.