Karun Chandhok admitted that his first qualifying session felt like "a shakedown" ahead of his grand prix debut tomorrow.
The 26-year-old GP2 graduate was unable to complete a single lap in free practice after suffering hydraulic problems, and his HRT-Cosworth had never turned a wheel after the building of the car was completed in Bahrain. Despite the lack of running, the Indian was able to reel off seven laps in Q1 to qualify 24th for his maiden grand prix. He set a time within 1.7sec of teammate Bruno Senna, who had run throughout free practice.
"It was like one of those days on the Silverstone Stowe circuit doing a shakedown, except on a slightly bigger stage," said Chandhok. "I was quite calm about it. Our objective wasn't to set a lap time. It's just to make sure that there's no leaks and that the engine isn't going to go pop.
"I didn't want to get in anyone's way and got a lot of pickup on the tires trying to keep out of the way. We're not here to upset anyone; we're just here to be respectable and do the best job that we can."
Although the chances of Chandhok's car making it through the 49-lap race have to be considered slim because his HRT-Cosworth has completed so little mileage, he has been impressed with its reliability once on the track.
"Well, it hasn't broken down," he said. "Once we get on track it does seem to keep going. All of our problems with the hydraulic systems have been leaving the garage in the first place!"
"This morning, an hour before the session it looked OK. Then I got in the car, got strapped in, we fired the engine up at 11 o'clock on the button and it wouldn't go into first gear because it lost hydraulic pressure. Once we got going, it seemed reliable enough but the hydraulics seem to be a bit of a problem for us and Virgin. I understand that Lotus has done some modifications and managed to make their system work a bit better than ours in terms of reliability."
Problems over the winter meant that the team was unable to complete any preseason testing, and Chandhok believes that it will not be until the Spanish Grand Prix in May that HRT will be where it should have been for the first race of the season on performance.
"The car that we will have in Barcelona is really the car that should have started the season," said Chandhok. "I'm not sure how many kilometers teams do on a weekend, but we are five or six thousand kilometers behind the game and, for the first four weekends, we are going to try and claim back at least the mileage.
"For the medium-to-long term, we have good people involved in the team. The potential is there and the investment is quite stable. It's good to sit in the briefings with people like Geoff Willis and Toni Cuquerella who have worked with teams fighting for wins and championships recently and it does benefit us. We have to remember that these guys have just started here very recently and it does take time. "