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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
27/03/2017

 

Biography

 
As is so often the case, Vitantonio Liuzzi is another driver who cut his racing teeth in karting.

He began his karting career in 1991, aged 9, and within two years had won the Italian Championship. Over the next couple of seasons he scored many other remarkable successes including finishing 2nd in the World Karting Championship and 5th in the European Championship.

'Tonio' continued in Karting until 1999, racing for the Factory CRG Team. Along the way, he enjoyed further success including winning the Ayrton Senna Memorial Trophy at Suzuka.

In late 1999, in addition to his karting duties, Liuzzi made his single-seater debut, taking part in a Formula Palmer Audi test at Oulton Park. He set the quickest time.

In 2000 he continued karting, finishing second in the Karting World Cup at Monteri, in addition to taking part in an F3 test with the Dutch Team Van Amersfoort.

2001 got off to a brilliant start, with Liuzzi winning the FIA-CIK Karting World Championship, a series held over five events. The Italian also got his first single-seater season underway, finishing runner-up in the German Formula Renault Championship.

In 2002, Liuzzi finished a disappointing ninth in the German F3 Championship, however there was consolation in the fact that he took three poles and won the San Marino International F3 race. Furthermore, in just his second season of single seater racing, Tonio was given test drives by both the Coloni F3000 team and the WilliamsF1 Formula One team.

In 2003, the Italian made the step up to F3000, and got the paddock talking with some stirring performances. Driving for Coloni Motorsport, Liuzzi finished fourth in the championship, having taken pole in Hungary, finished second in Germany, and six other top five finishes.

For 2004, 'Tonio' remained in F3000, but switched to Arden International, which had won the 2003 title with Bjorn Wirdheim.

To say that Liuzzi was the dominant force in F3000 in 2004 would be a masterpiece of understatement, quite simply, the Italian was supreme, winning seven of the ten races and securing the championship at Spa. Shortly after the title had been won, it was revealed that 'Tonio' was to test the Sauber at Jerez.

The Italian completed 60 laps of the Spanish track in the Sauber C23, posting a best time 2.011s slower than the only other driver on duty that day, seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher.

Funnily enough, Liuzzi and Schumacher had met once before, when the Italian beat the German on his 'home' Kart track at Kerpen in 2001.

Following Red Bull's purchase of the Jaguar Racing team, Vitantonio was quickly signed up, as were David Coulthard and Christian Klien.

Sadly the team's dubious decision to run its second car as a job-share benefited neither Klien or Liuzzi. Granted, the Austrian drove more races (14), however, the uncertainty had a negative effect on both drivers' performances.

Saying that however, it must be said that when Tonio did make his race debut he hardly set the world alight, and many were left feeling that perhaps it was a case of style over substance.

Making his debut on home ground (Imola), Liuzzi finished eighth, however, he span out in Spain and crashed in Monaco. Furthermore, despite David Coulthard's unease with the 'hot lap' qualifying format, the Scot out-qualified Tonio at all four events the Italian contested.

Looking ahead to 2006 we wrote that we hoped the fact that he now had a race seat for a full season would allow the Italian to demonstrate his undoubted skills, and prove that Italy has a new racing hero. Sadly, this was not to be the case.

Rising from the ashes of Minardi, Scuderia Toro Rosso, like its sister team, Red Bull, appeared to court controversy at every turn. Unfortunately, the results never came close to matching they hype.

Tonio scored a point at Indianapolis, having brought the V10 powered car home in eighth, but this had more to do with the high attrition rate than the Italian finally finding his form.

Throughout the season there were momentary flashes of the speed that had first brought the Italian to mainstream attention, however, all too often a needless mistake would nullify all the good work.

Like Scott Speed, Tonio was retained by Toro Rosso for a second season in 2007, however, team boss Gerhard Berger made it quite clear that both drivers would need to show signs of considerable improvement or risk being replaced.

Despite the fact that the Toro Rosso was effectively the Red Bull, albeit with a Ferrari engine, it was not quick out of the box, furthermore there were reliability issues.

When Scott speed was dropped - almost literally - by the team after the European GP, this appeared to serve as a wake-up call for Tonio, who had looked equally disappointing for much of the season. However, the arrival of Sebastian Vettel, together with the announcement that ChampCar sensation Sebastien Bourdais had been signed for 2008, appeared to give the Italian a much-needed jolt.

There should have been a point in Japan, but the Italian was penalized for overtaking under a yellow flag. A week later, he made up for it by finishing sixth in China, however, even in this he was outshone by his new teammate, who finished fourth.

There was talk of a move to Williams, but the seat eventually went to (Toyota-backed) Kazuki Nakajima. However, a strong test performance for Force India in late 2007 was enough to see Tonio recruited as third driver for the Silverstone-based outfit in 2008.

The new test rules in 2008 meant that there was little for Tonio to do, and even stricter rules in 2009 - when all in-season testing was banned - meant the popular Italian, who had been retained by Force India, would have even more time on his hands.

Speaking at the launch of the team's 2009 contender, Tonio admitted that it was hard to remain focussed and motivated with so little time in the car, and revealed that he was looking at other projects including the possibility of contesting the Le Mans 24-hours.

While he didn't get to Le Mans, Tonio did enjoy outings in both A1 GP and Speedcars however, on September 7, he finally got the call, he was to replace Giancarlo Fisichella for the remainder of the season, the Italian veteran having been summoned to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari.

Although 'rusty' in terms of F1, Tonio immediately made an impression, qualifying seventh for his home race, remarkable considering his teammate, Adrian Sutil, was on a significantly lighter fuel load. Unfortunately, driveshaft failure the following day saw him sidelined after just 22 laps.

Only once in the remaining four races did Tonio make it through to Q2 and though he failed to score any points he brought the car home safely every time.

Seemingly, Tonio did enough to impress his bosses at Force India for he was retained for 2010 partnering Adrian Sutil.

While the stats might not support it, the fact is that Force India continued to punch above its weight in 2010, albeit in less dramatic fashion than the previous year. Starting the season around a second off the pace of the Red Bulls, the gap was about the same by the end of they year. Where the Silverstone based outfit lost out however, is that by then it had been eclipsed by both Williams and Sauber.

As the team tried to focus on development, like so many of its rivals, precious resources needed to be diverted in order to copy the two biggest innovations of the year, the F-duct and the blown diffuser. Sticking with the Mercedes engine/McLaren gearbox package that had proved so successful in 2009, the VJM03 was an improvement in that it was better across a wider rage of tracks, whereas the VJM02 was at its best mainly when high downforce wasn't required.

While the team introduced its F-duct in Turkey, the blown diffuser made its race debut in Belgium having been tried during the free practice sessions in Hungary. The team was constantly playing around with its front wing while over the course of the season no less than seven different floors were used.

While Tonio scored the team's only points in the first two races, his failure, certainly compared to his teammate to get beyond Q2 meant that on most Sunday afternoons he faced an uphill task. Indeed, the fact that Sutil out-qualified him 16 times pretty much tells the story of Tonio's season. Then again, the Italian also had more than his fair share of accidents.

There were points finishes in Monaco and Canada, but in the second half of the season the Silverstone based team was clearly losing ground. Nonetheless, Tonio equalled his previous career best with a sixth in Korea, albeit largely thanks to the problems that befell the Red Bull duo.

In Brazil, following a fun battle with Massa, Tonio ran wide and crashed, bringing out the Safety Car and turning the race on its head. A week later, the Italian - totally unsighted - was involved in a horrific first lap incident in which he ran over the top of Michael Schumacher's stranded Mercedes.

Despite having a valid contract for 2011, over the course of the off-season Tonio's Force India drive was the subject of continued speculation, the smart money being on the Italian being dropped in favour of Paul di Resta. Sure enough, on January 26 the Indian team announced that it had signed the Scot with German youngster Nico Hulkenberg as test and reserve.

Seemingly without a seat for 2011, in mid February it was announced that Tonio would test for Hispania at Barcelona. Sure enough, the next day the Italian completed 70 laps in the team's 2010 car finishing ahead of Virgin's Timo Glock.

Following the test, Tonio and Christian Klien both made much of the fact that they hoped to secure the second Hispania seat alongside Narain Karthikeyan - sounding, to all intents and purposes, like a pair of turkeys looking forward to Christmas.

On March 9, the Spanish team confirmed Tonio as its second driver. Two days later the car was unveiled in Barcelona. However, with Spanish customs refusing to release a number of components neither the Italian nor his Indian teammate got to try the car before the opening session of the season. Indeed, while the car was only ready to run (for Karthikeyan) in the final minutes of Saturday practice in Melbourne, Tonio didn't get to drive the car in anger until qualifying a few hours later. Needless to say neither driver qualified.

Things were a lot better in Malaysia in that both drivers were able to take part in all sessions and even qualified, though Tonio was withdrawn from the race after 46 laps for reasons of safety (a loose rear wing).

The improved reliability of the F111 meant that Tonio finished six of the next seven races, including the excellent thirteenth in Canada that effectively gave his team eleventh in the final standings.

While the Italian looked good against Karthikeyan, things were a little harder once Daniel Ricciardo was brought in to replace the Indian from Silverstone. Indeed, one would suggest that this is why it was Tonio who was dropped in order to allow Karthikeyan to participate in his home race rather than the newcomer.

Other than his obvious problem dealing with Ricciardo, the big blot on Tonio's copybook was Monza where a mistake at the start ended not only his race but that of Petrov and Rosberg.

Finishing twenty-third in the championship - courtesy of that Montreal result - was the best Tonio could honestly hope for, however, it doesn't appear to have been enough to retain his seat at HRT.

After all that early promise, it would appear that Tonio is another of those drivers destined never to really make the grade in the top flight. Then again, with Kimi Raikkonen coming out of retirement, not to mention Pedro de la Rosa being given another chance, perhaps its not entirely over for the likeable Italian.

Statistics - at the end of 2011 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 6
Grand Prix: 80
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0

Best result in 2011: 13th (Canada)
Best qualifying 2011: 21st (4 times)
Worst qualifying 2011: 24th (3 times)

2011: Out-qualified Narain Karthikeyan 7 times
2011: Out-qualified by Narain Karthikeyan 0 times
2011: Out-qualified by Daniel Ricciardo 4 times
2011: Out-qualified Daniel Ricciardo 6 times

2011: Completed 849 out of 1015 laps (83.6%)
2011: Finished 12 times from 17 starts (71%)

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