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Liuzzi defiant: “I have a contract with Force India and I want to race”
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Liuzzi defiant: “I have a contract with Force India and I want to race”
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Jan 2011   |  2:17 pm GMT  |  43 comments

Still no word from Force India on its driver line up for the coming season. There are three jobs available; the two race drivers and the Friday/test driver. There has been speculation that the race drivers will be Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta with Williams refugee Nico Hulkenberg taking the test slot, but no confirmation.

It truly is a buyer’s market for Force India at the moment. But one person for whom this does not work is Tonio Liuzzi, who has broken his silence today with an interview on Italian website 422.com.


Liuzzi would not be doing this if it looked likely that he would be keeping his seat. He clearly doesn’t know where he stands. All he does know is that he has a contract for 2011 and he keeps repeating that if the team choose not to run him, “they know what they are facing.”

Although he has many apologists among the team and a few in the media, the bare facts are that he has not performed at the same level as Adrian Sutil, who also brings money to the team, apart from a few moments of brilliance. Last season he was on average three grid slots lower than Sutil.

“My situation is clear: Force India hasn’t informed me about any change and for me only the words of the team count. I’m pretty calm, because I have a very clear deal with the team for the 2011 season and if they should decide to take other routes, they know what they are facing.”

Asked what he means by that he says, “Should they decide to take other routes, for sure I won’t be just saying good evening or good night and retire. I have a contract to race and I want to race.”

I’ve been asking around in F1 circles about his options and – with the caveat that we do not know what his contract says – it looks like Liuzzi would have to be paid off for the 2011 season, probably around €1.5 million, plus possibly 50% of the bonus cut (another €750,000). But then he may also seek damages because being dropped so late like this harms his career and his chances of finding a seat for 2011.

There will be a performance clause in his contract, but he must have fulfilled this because otherwise the team would have said he was dropped much earlier than this.

However it seems there may also be an issue of money outstanding between Liuzzi and Force India from 2010. So when he says, “they know what they are facing” he may also be thinking in terms of legal levers he can pull in the event that he does not get his payoff, such as seeking an injunction against the team when it races in Italy or maybe even at Silverstone, as the contract is probably under UK law. Certainly Force India will want to avoid this so I’m sure he will get his money.

Liuzzi isn’t the first F1 driver to find himself in this position. He knew he faced competition from Di Resta, who has performed well as a test driver this year, but Hulkenberg being released by Williams really complicated the picture. F1 being all about how high a driver’s stock is, it’s tempting to take a driver who took pole in Brazil over one who qualified between 16th and 20th for the last six races, regardless of the story behind that.

“Formula 1 doesn’t surprise me anymore,” says Liuzzi. “You can never be sure, I won’t be until the first Grand Prix, on the 15th of March. I’m sure of having a valid contract with them. Again, if they should decide to change route in the end, they know what they are facing. I want to race, I waited two years as a third driver, so for sure I want to stay in my seat.”

Mercedes has an interest in what happens at Force India, with Di Resta being a favourite of Mercedes boss Norbert Haug and Hulkenberg also now coming under his sphere of influence. Di Resta’s Mercedes support is believed to mean that the Force India team gets a free or heavily-subsidised engine supply, with the lightweight Mercedes KERS also being attractive.

One possibility which has been suggested is that Liuzzi occupy the DTM seat which would be left vacant by Di Resta who is DTM champion. This would avoid Liuzzi seeking damages.

“So far I wasn’t offered anything: neither money nor a seat in DTM, as I read elsewhere, ” says Liuzzi. “They didn’t tell me such things, for sure.”

I contacted Force India and they say that nothing is finalised yet, but they hope to announce their drivers in the next two weeks.

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43 Comments
  1. A flow of drivers is not a bad thing, especially when we’re talking about giving a guy di Resta a chance to show what he’s made of in F1. Some drivers just have to face the facts and continue racing in Le Mans Series, DTM or GT championships, that’s life.

    Liuzzi was good in his F3000 days; however, he seems like a driver with big ups and downs. In real life he’s a nice bloke – I’ll happily admit that.

    1. Toti Harban says:

      I just read Peter Windsor advises Sutil and Chandhok for these seats at FI, IS THIS ACCURATE AND IF SO = WHO IS THIS MUPPET JAMES AS THE NAME IS FAMILIAR. I HOPE HE DOESN’T NEDD A JOB AS A FORTUNE TELLER.

  2. Hairs says:

    Liuzzi’s problem is the same as Sutil’s – They may have contracts for next year, but they’re at the end of their shelf life when it comes to “proven racer” terms. Sutil is only just getting around to eliminating rookie mistakes after 4 years in the sport, and Liuzzi is a great man for excuses but not great at finding extra speed in the car. If you’re going to have both cars running below their potential, and risk stupid driving errors losing your team points, you might as well change to two new drivers and see where you go from there. At least DiResta and Hulkenberg have room for improvement – both Liuzzi and Sutil have already peaked, and they’ve got nothing to show us for the future.

  3. Would love to see Hulk in a race seat, the guy has serious potential and it’s a damn shame Williams crucified him based on his early season performance and the cash from signing Pastor Maldonado. Who’ll probably end up being as big a mistake as Nakajima was.

    1. Robert says:

      Hulk is no big deal. He grabbed one pole and couldn’t even keep it for very long into the race. I don’t understand the attention he is getting.

      1. irish con says:

        maybe that is the clue there for you in what you say. he put a very average car the williams on pole in the wet in his first season in f1 and beat his team mate with over 300 gps behind him quite confortably in that session. the fact he fell back was because he was drivin a very average car that is not good off the line and after turn 4 on the first lap only the best driver in f1 passed him in a ferrari. pretty simple to me. in the 2nd half of the season he matched rubens more often that not and beat him quite a few times too for a rookie

      2. Robert says:

        If you look at just the stats, Rubens finished the season with more than double the points Nico did, and out of all the races they both finished, Nico finished ahead of Rubens 5x’s. Nearly 2 out of 3 races Rubens finished ahead of his highly touted rookie teammate.

        As for that pole position Nico nabbed, it could be because he ran higher downforce than the rest of the field, which compromised his race. He still fell to eigth, even though it was never easy for a faster car to get around a slower car, case in point Alonso trying to pass Petrov OR Webber trying to pass Alonso.

  4. Ghost in the Ruins says:

    I think he knows damn well he isn’t in favour with Force India and is pulling the old Eddie Jordan trick of whingeing as loudly as possible to get as much of a pay out as he can.

    I hope it’s Di Resta or Hulkenberg. Liuzzi hasn’t impressed either at Toro Rosso or Force India.

    1. ian says:

      He has a contract – which Force India were happy to sign.

      1. Ghost in the Ruins says:

        Yeah, but tell me when in this sport has anyone had to honour a contract when the alternative is to throw lots of money at the problem and buy them out? Kimi Raikkonen had a contract at Ferrari for 2010 don’t forget.

      2. ian says:

        Fine, but he agreed to be bought out, Liuzzi doesn’t have to agree. And the history of broken contracts in F1 is the very reason Force India should have avoided giving him such good terms. They were – as it were – in the driving seat.

  5. Nevis says:

    Why do teams sign up drivers on long term contracts ? I can see the advantage of tying down a big name driver for a few seasons, but why would anybody seek to sign a driver on a contract that wasn’t renewable every year. Things change. Drivers get lazy, new talent arrives, new sponsorship deal appear, so surely a team would want to keep it’s options open at all times. Seems they can’t get rid of him, and he was driving all last season knowing that.

    1. unoc says:

      Probably because they saw him do well on a sim and decided so….
      either

      He is good as in sim (only guess) and they sign him for 2 and hope that he lives up to expectations. Stick a number on what they will pay him in out in case he isn’t so

      He is not as good as expected and you end up with a dead weight.

      The risk with option 2 is that if he is much better and there isn’t such a great flow of drivers around (remember we just got should;ve been 3 new teams = 6 new seats) and so they might have had to pay more for a 2nd year.

      The risk with the first is that if doesn’t preform that well and your stuck with him.

      Gut feeling says Di Resta (deserves it) and Sutil

      Want thugh Senna (desevers a 2nd shot) and diresta/sutil

  6. Jack says:

    so it rumbles on. I’m sure almost everybody wants to see Sutil & Di Resta with Hulkenburg testing. All the fans and the media, so it can’t feel good to be Liuzzi at the moment

  7. Luke says:

    He had better get a new diary or there will be no one else there when he turns up for the 1st race of the season!

  8. RichT says:

    *Groan*- How about a ban on those involved in F1, saying “For sure”? I for one, am now heartily sick of hearing it.

    1. tank says:

      I, for one, would pay to hear Domenicali say “fo’ shizzle, ma nizzle” in its place. Even that would be better than the phrase above that must no longer be spoken.

      1. Rich C says:

        I dont think you can actually *say that if yr Italian. Theres a rule, for sure!

    2. dgg says:

      LOL!
      I cannot agree with you more!
      What’s wrong with “definitely”, or “absolutely”, “certainly”, “undoubtedly”? F1…mix it up a little, will you!?

      Even the english folks are getting on the “for sure” wagon lately. For such a sophisticated sport, the language is a little….plain…’for sure’!

      1. RichT says:

        Nothing wrong at all!

        I do not know what truth there may be in it, if any, but, I once heard it suggested that people of certain nationalities have trouble saying “certainly”, hence the now dreaded substitution “for sure”. Saints preserve us!

        As for Liuzzi’s performance; he has now had his oft mentioned deserved second chance and as far as performance related results are concerned, leaves much to be desired. On that basis, he should now make way for someone else with something to prove.

      2. Arri says:

        It’s because they directly translate from Italian to english…”for sure” or “per sicuro” (in Italian)being more spoken in this context and mostly said when meaning “definitely” whilst certainly or ‘certamente’ in Italian would have a slightly different meaning i.e. “I would certainly agree”. And if this makes no sense please don’t dis me…I don’t have a teaching degree .. :-)

      3. RichT says:

        Ah, so that is why. I knew there was a supposedly valid reason. Now I have been reminded! Many thanks for taking the trouble.

    3. mikr says:

      for sure I think that “for sure” is one of the reasons I love F1.

  9. Sure I feel sorry for Luizzi, but I don’t think he performed well enough in 2010 to merit a seat in 2011. The problem is that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t merit a seat, because he has a contact to have a seat in 2011.

    I feel the sport would be better in promoting a rising star such as Paul Di Resta (who beat world champion Vettel in the 2006 Euroseries), rather than keeping an Italian older driver who after many seasons in F1 clearly does not have what it takes to make an impact at the top level.

  10. Black Knight says:

    Any specifics regarding what actual sponsorship money Luzzi brings to Force India ?
    Honestly – the only reason that Force India would sign this fellow to a multi-year contract has to be the sponsorship guarantees.
    Otherwise, a one year contract is all a person of this talent level can expect.

  11. Toti Harban says:

    Poor multi-millionnaire…

    I want to race F1 too, so can I please have a seat Bernie.

    OOPS… my Daddy is not rich enough :<(

    The sooner the better for you Vitantonio.

    Don't even get me started on Karun the encyclepedia again.

    For your next job practice the phrase BIG MAC LARGE FRIES & A COKE TO THE DRIVE IN PLEASE.

  12. ian says:

    Presumably Force India were in a pretty strong position when they signed the contract originally – so if they gave away too much hard luck on them. i think Liuzzi would have a good chance of substantial damages – and good luck to him.

  13. irish con says:

    james considering they have not confirmed anything at all force india i mean does this mean that its 2 out of the four for the 2 drives or is it sutil plus one. personally if i was big mallya id bomb out sutil because its clear he wants to move on and if he moves this time next year he might not have someone as good as di resta or hulkenburg as michael could be quitting again and one of those guys could step up. i would go the peter sauber route of giving the young fast guys there chance.

  14. S.J.M says:

    Perhaps i just read into things too much, but it appears to be a desperate move by Luizzi who i think is very worried about his seat. He says that he goes by the word that the team speaks, so by not saying a thing he means that all is well. I see it differently, if they was keeping him id reckon they would have said that by now. Perhaps he wants to get his views out first rather then looking spiteful after being (possibly) dumped by FI.

    Im not a betting man, but Id wager he wont be in their car for the start of the season. Take the DTM job and try again next season, or use the compensation to apply at HRT, im sure they’d welcome him and his cash.

  15. Ross says:

    Liuzzi didnt perform as well as he should this season but I dont think he was as bad as it has been made out by the British media who could not mention his name without mentioning Di Resta in the sentence. I cant remember the exact race but he had a terrible qualifying which he pillared for then went onto have a storming race and finish a season best 5th for Force India and he barely got a mention by the UK Press.

    If he has a contract to race next year then they should either pay him off or race him. It’s not Liuzzi’s problem. It’s wrong to leave him hanging on at the moment and I’d imagine a few teams wouldnt mind him as a 3rd driver for next year.

    I remember when BMW bought over Sauber and inherited JV who they clearly didnt fancy. They eventually got rid of him after a few shaky races (though no worse than Heidfeld) but JV was a millionaire and was not interested in a cash pay off and had a contract to race. Luizzi has to adopt the same mentality.

    1. Rohan says:

      I agree – the main premise of the article, that Liuzzi didn’t perform well last season, is wrong. In fact, Liuzzi performed admirably given the problems he had with the car (remember that his chassis was changed part-way through the season since it turned out that the chassis had cracked, and that he suffered a large number of mechanical problems in practice sessions etc).

    2. Andy H says:

      Ross
      Sense at last!
      Liuzzi is a useful driver who has not had the rub of the green. Sutil should be the one to go, he does not want to be at Force India and rates himself highly. Sutil has the ability but makes too many unforced errors and suicide moves, whilst no showing signs of maturing. In the face of pressure from the abunance of good young drivers (DiResta, Hulkenburg,Paffet and so on) competition on fringes is high, its harsh to say but maybed Force India’s way forward is with Liuzzi as test driver and Hulkenburg/DiResta as race drivers.
      Hopefully Hulkenburg will go to Uncle Ross,learn his trade and take over from Grandad in 2012. That is if Grandad doesnt kill himself first.

  16. devilsadvocate says:

    Malaya should probably start getting his i’s dotted and t’s crossed on tonio’s performance clause, Liuzzi certainly looks poised and capable of pulling a Nelson Piquet Jr style backlash if they boot him right now. Although it could also just be a front to try and scare them down and he really might have nothing, it’s risky

  17. Ben G says:

    I’m surprised Force India signed him on a two year deal. I thought most drivers were on one year deals with options these days.

  18. Tim Horton says:

    Who has the Mercedes test drive seat? Is it likely that Di Resta will take Liuzzi’s race seat, and Hulkenburg take the Merc test drive seat till Schumacher retires in 2012 (or before)?

  19. Rich C says:

    I have to say I like his fighting spirit!
    Seems like he’s not gonna just lie down and roll over.

  20. stuart fenton says:

    Liuzzi seems a good guy and had some decent results this year. But also some bad luck and mechanical issues. James, I often hear about how in certain F1 circles Liuzzi is considered ‘an undiscovered superstar’, can someone please elaborate on this?

  21. neo says:

    I doubt this is new to him, they must have given him clear signals in the last few races. Since he couldn’t find another seat elsewhere he’s trying to go to press first.

    His Interview has enough clues on what’s going on, he knows for sure FI doesn’t need him and they negotiating a pay out with or without other drive options. and He personally feels if he gets one more year he can impress some other teams to sign him up and knows for sure if he goes out he can never come back again.

    So far it looks Sutil seat is guaranteed, other wise he would have called for a press in some corner of the world.

    FI has this irresistible combo offer in-front of them in the form of Paul Di Resta and Subsidized Merc engines.

    1. Andy H says:

      ‘For sure’ are you sure.

  22. Adrian Newey Jr says:

    People forget that a few years ago it wasn’t a buyers market. I can understand why FI would have signed VL for two years given his pedigree and experience at STR. It was only recently that FI have begun to get a reasonable car.

  23. Ben says:

    Liuzzi is a clown. I don’t care who takes his seat, because just about everyone else is more deserving than him. He’s so far off an F1 driver, and he’s proven it again and again and again. How many more chances should he get?

    He’s saying Force India know whats coming if they drop him, they also know whats coming if they keep him. If I was Vijay I’d take my chances on dropping him, it’ll be a whole lot less painful.

  24. DavidJoeF1 says:

    I think driving for Force India would be a bad move for Hulkenburg. The best would be to sign for Mercedes and receive the guidance of Ross Brawn.

    If Schumacher is beaten again by Rosberg, and I cannot imagine he will not, then at a minimum Nico will be in the race seat come 2012.

    Hulkenburg is proven entity. He is quick and is aggressive with a year’s experience with Williams.

    di Resta is unknown and Force India is at the lower end of the grid. Sure he is quick in the DTM but has not raced recently in single seaters against the best up and coming drivers in F3, FR3.5 and GP2.

    If the Scot is signed he has a mountain to climb.

    If FI do sign di Resta instead of Hulkenburg, I will really question Mallya’s judgement anyway.

  25. Forzaminardi says:

    Force India have an unfortunate habit of stuffing things up, don’t they? Why on earth did they sign Liuzzi so long ago on a test contract with a promise of a race drive when he was so down and out after STR dumped him? I’m not saying he’s not a good driver but it was an extraordinarily one-sided commitment by a team to a driver who was never that great and who had few options. As a result of that, the attempt to unload him is getting messy now too. James, is there any chance Sutil might actually be the one left standing when the music stopped? I read somewhere his reluctance to sign a deal and daliances with Renault and Mercedes annoyed Mr. Mallya…

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