JUNE 28, 2006

Red Bull teams fighting over Liuzzi?

Reports in the Austrian press suggest that Scuderia Toro Rosso part-owner Gerhard Berger would like to keep Italy's Tonio Liuzzi in his team next year. The fact that Berger wants Liuzzi is a great compliment to the young Italian but it is rather inconvenient as Red Bull Racing has been showing considerable interest in Liuzzi in recent months and has tested the 25-year-old on several occasions. David Coulthard is likely to stay in one of the Red Bull Racing cars next year but the team wants a youngster alongside him who is capable of beating DC, as he is the yardstick for the future. It is fair to say that Christian Klien has not been very convincing alongside him this year and the word in Austria is that Klien will now have to look for work in the United States in 2007. If that is indeed the case, then Liuzzi is the only obvious candidate for the job.

It should be remembered that he drove with huge success for Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner in Formula 3000 in 2004, utterly dominating the Formula 3000 series. Since then Red Bull has handled his career rather oddly with just a few F1 races with Red Bull Racing in 2005 before it was decided that the team should concentrate on Klien. The Austrian elements in the team then succeeded in keeping Klien in RBR for this season and Liuzzi ended up being pushed backwards into Scuderia Toro Rosso - Minardi by another name. The team has struggled to be competitive with what looks a lot like the 2005 Red Bull chassis but on several occasions Liuzzi has shown impressive speed and much maturity and it is clear that he is now ready to step up. Berger has obviously seen this and wants to get the best driver line-up he can muster.

The problem for Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz is that if he keeps his buddy Berger happy, he may end up damaging not only Red Bull Racing, the primary team - in which there has been huge investment - but also the development programmes that Red Bull runs to help youngsters get to F1. It makes no sense at all to hire an outsider to partner Coulthard in 2007 as there is a queue of Red Bull drivers available - with Liuzzi at the front of it.

The decision also rests a little on the outcome of engine negotiations that are now taking place as Red Bull Racing seems to be moving towards a Cosworth deal. That would mean that Scuderia Toro Rosso would have to use Ferrari V8s and if Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen do both sign up for Ferrari, a place would need to be found at Scuderia Toro Rosso for Felipe Massa. At the same time Mateschitz is keen to keep up an American angle in his teams so he will want to see Scott Speed as well - which means that Berger might not have room for Liuzzi.