Mar.23 (Reuters) Spanish F1 team HRT appear likely to qualify for the Malaysian Grand Prix after overcoming some reliability niggles in Friday practice in what was effectively a testing session for them.
HRT, whose cars failed to qualify for last week’s Australian Grand Prix for the second year in a row, completed a total of 66 laps around the 5.543 km Sepang circuit, the first time the team has put in any meaningful running after missing winter testing for the third year in succession.
Drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan also set times in the second practice session that were within 107 percent of Lewis Hamilton’s best, meaning they should have the pace to qualify for the race.
Under the rules, drivers must qualify within 107 percent of the best time set in a session in order to be allowed to race, although stewards can use their discretion and allow them to start – depending on the circumstances.
“In the morning session we suffered some reliability issues, the same as in Melbourne but not as bad and we’ve also got some cooling issues too,” Karthikeyan, in his second year with the team, said.
“I definitely felt the difference with regards to Australia but we need a lot more.”
De la Rosa, making his return to grand prix racing at 41 years of age after one race as an emergency Sauber stand-in last year said the team have taken a considerable step forward.
“The sensations improved as the day wore on and the car behaved better from the morning to the afternoon. There’s still plenty to do, but the general evaluation for the day is positive.”
Karthikeyan set lap time of one minute 43.658 seconds with de la Rosa clocking 1:43.823.