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Tonio Liuzzi in limbo despite contract
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jan 2012   |  12:23 pm GMT  |  14 comments

Tonio Liuzzi has had one of those careers where his drive for the next season seems always to be in doubt. Now at the age of 30 he finds himself once again waiting for a call, despite the fact that he has a contract with HRT. And it sounds like this time, he might have run out of options.

“At the moment everything is very vague,” he told Italian site 422race.com. “The main problem is that the team have no budget, so they are evaluating the way to get the money to have two drivers. Now I’m still tied to HRT, becuase I have a deal for two more years, but everything is still to be defined, because they are looking for sponsors. For sure they would like to keep both me and Pedro (de la Rosa), but we are
still in standby.”

Twelve months ago he was smarting from being dropped by Force India despite having a contract to race in 2012. Liuzzi says that this time around, the change of ownership from the Carabantes family to Thesan Capital last year has brought about a change in mentality, much more focussed on HRT’s Spanish identity. Luis Perez Sala came in as team principal towards the end of the year, replacing Colin Kolles.

“When I decided to sign for this team, there was a different ownership, Carabantes’, who had different project to Thesan Capital, who is more nationalistic,” says Liuzzi. “Their project is a Spanish one, to get Spanish sponsors, which is changing the drivers’ management as well. I’m not judging, I’m very realistic: I understand the situation inside the team.”

Liuzzi is still working on the development programme of the 2012 HRT car and says that it will be ready for the first test next month and should be a big step forward from the car which ran at the back last season. The two other new teams, Caterham and Virgin, also plan to take a big step. Virgin has a technical crew assembled by Pat Symonds, so it will be very interesting to see what this most resourceful of engineers can conjure up. Meanwhile Caterham now has in place many of the tools and staff it needs to challenge the midfield runners. With some top aero people a Renault engine and KERS and a Red Bull back end, the Caterham should put some other cars than just HRT and Virgin behind it, but time will tell.

He also had a pop at Red Bull’s driver management programme. Liuzzi once had Red Bull backing and drove for both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. He was quite badly messed around at Red Bull Racing, sharing a drive with Christian Klien, but was then given two seasons with Toro Rosso. Now, he says, it’s not clear what the people running the programme use as a yardstick to measure quality,

“This is Mateschitz’ toy and Marko is managing it,” he says.”Everybody manages their business how they want. You can criticize it or not, but in the end they invest a lot of money on this programme, so they do what they want. Lately it’s not clear how they choose their drivers, because the ones that do good results are sacked, but everybody can manage this toy as they want.”

The veteran of five seasons and 81 Grands Prix sounds like he might be reaching the end of the road in F1. There is still the possibility of a third driver role somewhere, but there are some well funded young drivers chasing those opportunities too.

Time will tell whether we’ll hear more from Tonio Liuzzi in F1.

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14 Comments
  1. Chris C says:

    Contracts mean nothing in Formula 1. If ones like the one of Raikonnen with Ferrari can be broken up (with the 25mil consequenceces), everything is possible.

    Personally I would like to see Liuzzi take a bow from F1. He never demonstrated any form of top talent (obviously to be in F1 he is talented). I would rather see the position given to Algursuari that has done a decent job in Toro Rosso and needs a lifeline, plus he would match the Spanish team formation plans. Alternatively a new young driver (with some backing) could be given a chance.

    Not so sure if HRT has any future though, can imagine them running for long like that, as they slowly become the only 4th tier team.

    Good luck to both Liuzzi and HRT

    1. ben S says:

      Didn’t ALG distance himself from HRT a couple of weeks ago? Maybe he shouldn’t have… even a rubbish drive(assuming they make it) is better than no drive.

    2. C-M says:

      Of course the a contract means something in F1 just as it does in every other business.

      All contracts will have clauses and terms.

      Either Kimi agreed to the buyout of his contract, or a clause was activated. Either way without a contract he would have got nothing.

      So in that situation the contract worked exactly how it should have done.

  2. Jamie Cottage says:

    I disagree with Liuzzi’s points on the Toro Rosso driver programme. The strategy is clear – they are looking for the next Vettel and are only interested in developing future World Champions. A team can tell within 2-3 seasons whether a driver has something special. Buemi isn’t on that level. Perhaps Alguesuari is too young to make that call yet however…

    1. But how can you tell how good a driver is when your only solid reference point (his teammate is an unknown quantity, too? For all we know, Buemi and Alguersuari might have been outdriving the Toro Rosso all season, or going very slowly in cars that were as quick as the Red Bulls.

      It seems strange that there is no attempt by STR to measure the drivers in their programme against an experienced driver, like Sauber did when they picked up Heidfeld for the latter part of 2010 so they could see how Kobayashi rated against him. Liuzzi makes a valid point here and he’s not the first person to make it. Maybe giving an older driver an occasional Friday, or maybe even a whole weekend, would give them a better idea of just how good their drivers actually are.

      1. Jamie Cottage says:

        You or I can’t tell. But Red Bull/Toro Rosso would know EXACTLY how well (or not) their drivers are doing and if they are maxing the potential of the car. Think of all the sim testing, the hundreds of sensors taking all sorts of calculations over testing and 19 race weekends per season – they have more than enough data to judge these guys over 2 or 3 years!

      2. They have a better idea than us, certainly, but they still can’t be sure. If they could be then there would be no need for the kind of exercise that Sauber undertook with Heidfeld and Kobayashi. Alan Permane also spoke recently about the difficulty of evaluating Bruno Senna against Petrov because the Russian is not himself a known quantity, and that’s after 18 months alongside Kubica and Heidfeld!

        Toro Rosso’s only firm reference point for Buemi and Alguersuari is the first nine races of 2009, when Buemi was up against Bourdais. But then what if Bourdais was made to look worse than he really was by Vettel the year before? If Red Bull are serious about using Toro Rosso as a proving ground for the main team, then they should thinking about using a proven, older driver as the third driver to provide a solid benchmark. The return of in-season testing should provide more opportunities for driver assessment though, and we could see teams ringing up the likes of Barrichello, Heidfeld, Fisichella and Sutil so they can get a better read on their cars and drivers.

  3. Sean says:

    It would be a real shame to see Tonio off the grid this season. He’s a nice personality to have around the paddock. Whilst I’ve never really seen flashes of brilliance, he is quite a solid driver. He could have done well if he’d been able to hang onto his FI drive.

  4. franed says:

    It must be extremely frustrating to have made it to F1, but never have a decent car or any security.
    Maintaining a polite positive attitude at all times,is surely a huge feat of will power, when you really want to let fly and tell the world what a mendacious load of double dealing back-stabbers they are, running things! But of course we know that. It is virtually a cattle market, where drivers are often treated appallingly. One can only hope that what goes around comes back eventually and dishes out just desserts.

  5. Rob Newman says:

    Virgin ..? … I thought that name is no more … Shouldn’t that be Maurissa now?

  6. Rich C says:

    Too bad for Tonio, but he seems very realistic about it: “Everybody manages their business how they want. You can criticize it or not, but in the end they invest a lot of money on this programme, so they do what they want…”

    I always have to lol at ppl “making big steps” and all those other cliches. It really only means they are waaaay behind.

  7. Andy C says:

    Its really a shame to see him have two effectively waterright contracts dissolve in his hands.

    Arguably he hasnt set the world alight, but to be honest I didnt think Dan Ricciardo did either last year.

    What is amazing is how many capable drivers there are around F1, who arent driving.

    Whilst underperformers continue to drive year after year (trulli as an example)

  8. Phil says:

    “HRT car and says that it will be ready for the first test next month and should be a big step forward from the car which ran at the back last season. The two other new teams, Caterham and Virgin, also plan to take a big step. Virgin has a technical crew assembled by Pat Symonds, so it will be very interesting to see what this most resourceful of engineers can conjure up. Meanwhile Caterham now has in place many of the tools and staff it needs to challenge the midfield runners. ”

    Hearing that makes me laugh my bum off. Same thing they said at start of 2011 and nothing changed… Nothing will change this year.

  9. Nick says:

    Another great but wasted talent.

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