Features - Interview
SEPTEMBER 6, 2005
Tonio Liuzzi: Born to race
BY JOE SAWARD
Tonio Liuzzi is a frustrated man. Last year he was racing like a demon and swept to a dominant championship in Formula 3000 with seven wins in 10 races. Sauber wanted to give him a contract but decided at the last minute to sign Jacques Villeneuve instead and so Liuzzi went instead to Red Bull Racing where he has shared the second seat with the more experienced Christian Klien. It has not been an easy year but when he has been able to race he has done well.
Now 24, Liuzzi wants to get back to racing as soon as he can but for the moment it is a question of pounding around working for the team.
"It is difficult," he says. "Really difficult. I am hungry to race. I was born to race and I want to win. I want to compete with others. As a third driver it is good to help the team and work for the team and give the most you can but racing is racing and I really miss it!"
Instead Liuzzi goes to the tracks to work for his team mates. It may be good to learn about F1 but Tonio dreams of fighting it out with Michael Schumacher and the others, which he has done only four times this year.
"When I come to the circuit as a third driver the important thing for me to do is to make mileage with the car and do as many kilometres as I possibly can," he says. "That helps the team to prepare the cars for the race. I test more than the other two cars because of the two-race engine rule which means that the race drivers have to save the engines and so I do the tyre work and make the selection of the tyres to make sure that we have the right tyres for the race. There are things that I have to do with the engine and the aerodynamics as well and it is important for me to give good advice to my team mates. Unlike some of the teams I do not get more revs. I get one set of tyres more than the drivers but we have the same revs. The other two drivers use the maximum revs of the engine when they try tyres and so it is a similar condition. It is just that I am doing more kilometres in order to give more information. It is good to be learning so that I will be better prepared when I get back to racing and to learn the circuits where I have never been, like Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain, so that in the future there will not be many circuits that I do not know. That will be a big help. Before this year I had never seen some of the tracks and for me it will be better when I go back next year. Qualifying is not done this year low-fuel and although some of the other teams do it, you don't need to and we are happy to run in the same conditions on Fridays as we do on Saturday.
"The Red Bull is a pretty good car. At the start it was good but we have struggled a bit with development, although we are getting better now. Sometimes that has meant that things are not easy because I do not always get the same updates as the race drivers. I don't always have the same aerodynamic parts nor the new engines because there are not enough to supply all three cars so sometimes I don't get the same spec of cars as the others so you really cannot tell what is going on because I am in a slower position than they are.
"The cars is not so far from the pace and we are getting quicker and quicker. The gap to the leading teams is coming down but it is not easy to follow Renault and McLaren because they are getting developments every week. We do not have the same budget this year. Now we are working really hard for next year because we will have a Ferrari engine deal and it will be really interesting to see how things go. I think it will be really good. I think we are going in the right direction and we have the right people.
"I cannot really complain about this year because we are really really strong aerodynamically. That is one of our best things. We have a good engine and a good mechanical package. We have a bit to go on the engine and mechanical side but I don't see any real weak points in our cars. We just have to develop everything a little bit more."
And the others?
"For sure the McLaren is much stronger than the others," says Tonio. "They have worked really hard. At the start of the year they had a problem with the single lap qualifying and they struggled a bit but since they fixed that the car was been really good. I think the whole car just fits well together. The engine is good, the whole package is strong. I don't see any weaknesses. Everywhere we go the car is fast. It is quick in qualifying and in the races. The only thing this year has been the reliability. That is tough because Kimi (Raikkonen) is losing the chance to be World Champion because of that. He is doing such a strong job and he deserves to be World Champion. Now it is getting closer. Renault is strong too but I think that McLaren is a step higher. Renault is struggling a little as they often do in the second half of a season, but their package is a bit more consistent. They are very good in slow sections and at the starts but maybe they have some problems with degradation of the rear tyres. But it is a good fight with McLaren.
"I like the way that BAR works because they are a team which thinks completely differently to all the others teams, especially when you look at the technology of the cars. It looks a bit weird compared to the others but I like that. It is another mentality. The only thing is that they have been a little bit up and down and I don't understand that.
"The situation at Ferrari is pretty difficult. At the beginning it looked like Bridgestone had a big problem and it seemed like they never got the chance to get out of that but then at some races - like Imola and Hockenheim - they seemed really strong. They seemed to have solved the problems and then they dropped back again. It is a weird situation and it is difficult to understand whether it is just the tyres or whether it is also the car. In that sort of situation it is very easy to lose the way and now the season is gone for them and so it is important for them to focus on next year."
And what about Tonio Liuzzi. Where is he going in 2006>?
"I hope to stay with the team," he says. "I love the mentality and I think we can be really strong together and I think we can achieve some really good results.
"But unfortunately I still don't know anything for certain at the moment."