x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Liuzzi is on firmer ground

The Italian has found racing equilibrium with Hispania after a turbulent start to the year.

It should come as little surprise to learn that, as part of Hispania Racing Team's charm offensive on its home Spanish crowd this weekend, Vitantonio Liuzzi triumphed during a promotional Jet Ski competition. The Italian, after all, is an expert when it comes to negotiating rough waters.

Following a delayed launch that saw Hispania miss all four pre-season testing sessions, the team's second full year in Formula One started in lamentable style when they were prohibited from partaking in the calendar-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Both Liuzzi and teammate Narain Karthikeyan, despite a hectic rush to be ready, were denied permission to compete Sunday because of a recently reinstated rule dictating that the slowest car in the field must be within 107 per cent of the fastest time during Saturday's first qualifying session.

However, as the season has progressed, the team has found its footing and for Liuzzi, although suffering forced retirements in Malaysia and last month in Spain, recent results and a sprinkling of good fortune have indicated performance is improving.

Now, even away from the azure Valencian coastline, Luizzi's horizon is looking brighter.

In Monaco, after suffering damage in free practice, neither Hispania car met the 107 per cent requirement during qualifying, yet after special dispensation was granted by the FIA, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan were able to race.

Such was the on-track carnage that simply by finishing a race that claimed seven drivers, both men recorded their best results of the season, posting 16th (Liuzzi) and 17th (Karthikeyan).

In Canada two weeks later, seven drivers succumbed once again under severe conditions at the Circuit Gilles Villenueve, but this time while Karthikeyan finished 17th, Liuzzi fought his way up to 13th, ahead of both Virgin Racing cars as well as his compatriot at Team Lotus, Jarno Trulli.

"Definitely, for us, it was a good achievement," Liuzzi said ahead of tomorrow's European Grand Prix. "It was a big target for us. We know that in dry conditions our target would be pretty impossible if the race goes normally, so we have to use that kind of situation, where it is a bit of a crazy race like in Montreal, and optimise everything."

Geoff Willis, the technical director at Hispania, complimented Liuzzi on his drive, adding that while "at certain times a back-marker team can get lucky, you have to make your luck".

Liuzzi started his F1 career as a test driver for Red Bull, but it was, he said, "a different Red Bull", a team more focused on building a brand than building a marque capable of winning races. The result was Liuzzi being involved in "lots of crazy stuff", including MotoGP, bungee jumping, sky diving and, again, Jet Skis.

"They let me do it because they were more focused on these kind of events than the races," he said.

When Red Bull acquired Minardi and renamed them Scuderia Toro Rosso, Liuzzi was given a full-season seat, which he retained for two seasons before moving to Force India, where he also stayed for two years.

Having lost his seat to Paul di Resta in the winter of 2010, Liuzzi, 29, was chosen to join Karthikeyan at Hispania.

"He has a lot of experience, is fast, and is open and approachable," said Karthikeyan of his racing partner. "You always benchmark yourself against your teammate, and he provides a good comparison. He is a good guy, knows how to develop the car well from his experience and always takes things in a positive manner, which makes for a good atmosphere."

As the midway point of his first season with the Spanish team approaches, Luizzi is confident things are moving in the right direction.

Hispania have brought some minor updates to Valencia, but a bigger package is planned for Silverstone in two weeks as Colin Kolles's team look to continue improving.

"We showed the rest of the paddock and the world that Hispania keep their promises, because we said the car that you saw in February - or that you didn't see, basically - could do a good job and we have shown we are able to develop and progress.

"We were out of the race in Australia, but have been making constant improvements ever since, and now we are racing, competing with Virgin and getting closer to Lotus," Liuzzi said. "We are doing what we predicted."