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.