HRT driver Vitantonio Liuzzi believes that he has had a ‘positive’ start first season so far at the Spanish outfit and, as he looks towards the end of the summer break and the final eight races of ten, the Italian driver is still aiming for that lucrative tenth spot in the constructors’ standings for his new team.
Liuzzi, who was dropped by Force India at the end of last season, must have wondered what he had signed up for as both he and then team-mate Narain Karthikeyan failed to qualify for the race of the season in Australia. However, the veteran of 73 grand prix starts, who celebrated his 30th birthday just last week, thinks that HRT have improved markedly since March.
“It has been a positive [season so far],” says Liuzzi. “It has been challenging but we have made good progress since Australia. The steps taken and reliability have been good and we managed to overtake Virgin in the Championship. The development slowed down a little with the changes in ownership but now we are a consistent structure and we are looking strong for the future.”
Liuzzi himself has done well in the car, outperforming his team-mate in all but two races this season, and has only finished a race behind his team-mate once. “I would say that we have done well,” he adds. “I have had a few unfortunate DNF's but, overall, the speed is better, we are more competitive and we are racing with other teams, which is the most important thing. I give myself an eight out of ten.”
The highlight of the season for Liuzzi so far is, without question, his thirteenth place finish in the bizarre race at Montreal, which lasted for nearly five hours. That thirteenth place was HRT‘s best result in the sport, and currently puts them above Virgin Racing in the constructors’ standings.
Liuzzi wants to continue competing with the likes of Virgin and Team Lotus in the second half of the season. “The main focus is to keep on growing and try and consolidate a solid structure,” he explains. “We must focus on the 2012 season but without leaving 2011 aside. We still have quite a few races ahead in which to try and beat our direct rivals. It is not an easy target but we are fighters and will keep on pushing.”
Of course, HRT have had a lot of detractors this season, particularly at the start. They did not test the new car at all before bringing it to Australia and the first timed laps were not posted until the Saturday in Melbourne. Unfortunately, in qualifying, Liuzzi was two seconds off the pace of Virgin Racing rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio whilst Karthikeyan was 3.5 seconds slower than the Belgian. Liuzzi, however, defends his team from the critics:
“A lot of people didn't believe we would come through at the beginning of the year but I have always been really positive,” says Liuzzi. “As I have said on many occasions, there are good people involved in this project and the potential is there. If we work in the right direction, I'm sure we can achieve good things. I never doubted that there was potential for improvement, obviously we are not expecting to win races but to be where we are already is proof of the strength of the project. If you believe in yourself and in the project then you can achieve anything.”
Liuzzi is understandably looking forward to his home race at Monza in September, but is also eagerly anticipating the trip to Spa at the end of August, scene of what the Italian describes ‘many crazy races’. He has one extremely optimistic goal for this season, but would be content just with more signs of progress from his team:
“I already consider it a successful season but if we could achieve our biggest target of finishing 10th in the Constructors Championship, then that would be perfect. But we have to be realistic and continue pushing to show that we are competitive. We have to improve our pace compared to the leaders from now until the end of the season.”