Why Liuzzi fits in at Hispania

Posted: March 9, 2011 in Formula 1
Tags: , , , , , , ,

File this one under “if he keeps talking for long enough, he’s bound to get one right eventually.”  As predicted at the bottom of this post here, Italian driver Vitantonio Liuzzi will partner Narain Karthikeyan at Hispania Racing Team in 2011.

In 2004, Liuzzi won the FIA International Formula 3000 championship, driving for the Arden team managed by current Red Bull Racing chief Christian Horner.  He did so by an absolute mile, ending up with a 30 point margin over runner-up Enrico Toccacelo at the end of a season in which Liuzzi only once failed to qualify on pole position.  Tonio was as dominant a champion as the series had ever seen, though the line-up for that season was among the weakest the series had ever seen.  You can only beat what’s there, of course, so we shouldn’t look to detract from his achievement, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that his career since then can be summed up as, “has driven in 63 Grands Prix.”

Liuzzi’s career has featured occasional flashes of promise – qualifying the Force India 7th on his debut for the team at Monza in 2009 is a fine example, as is 6th on the grid in Canada last year – but too often his car has been nestled snugly in the lower midfield, frequently when his team mates have been racing much further up the field.  While it seems likely that his treatment at Force India last season didn’t entirely match that given to the team’s other driver Adrian Sutil, it’s a stretch to suggest he had the same problem during previous spells with Toro Rosso and Red Bull.  Tonio’s level, it would seem, is slightly below that of a consistent F1 front runner, but his work as a testing and development driver is considered to be among the best in the business.

All of which makes the Italian a perfect fit for HRT, a team which has no requirement whatsoever for a race-winning F1 driver.  The team’s new car, the F111, will not launch until Friday, giving the team 2 days of testing before heading to Melbourne for the first race (this, it must be said, is 2 days more than last season, when Karun Chandhok’s car was still being built as qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix got underway).  They lack a major sponsor, having concentrated their efforts on a Spanish market where there’s simply no money for anyone who isn’t Fernando Alonso.  When asked for his views on the new car, team principal Colin Kolles said only that, “The car doesn’t look too bad.  It looks like a modern Formula 1 car.”

Their only realistic aim, therefore, is to be slower than everyone else by a smaller margin than the one achieved in 2010.  Karthikeyan is blessed with natural speed but not renowned for his ability to concentrate for a whole race at a time, while Liuzzi provides a steadier pair of hands and good technical feedback.  Whatever their quality in other departments, Liuzzi’s confirmation means the HRT driving staff have all the qualities needed to bring the team closer to the rest of the pack.  For now, that’ll do.

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