Force India F1 team owner Vijay Mallya has hinted that Vitantonio Liuzzi is auditioning for a long-term role with the Silverstone squad, having been drafted into the line-up in place of Giancarlo Fisichella.
With his veteran countryman heading for a 'dream' engagement with Ferrari, Liuzzi was promoted from reserve and test driver duties to return to competition in front of his home crowd at Monza, but Mallya suggested that the former Red Bull/Toro Rosso pilot could get a longer run behind the wheel should he perform well enough over the remainder of the 2009 campaign.
"He's okay for the next five races, and maybe even beyond," the Indian admitted, "He knows that he needs to perform as well. We've done all we can to produce a car that's now getting competitive and, as the driver, he also has to deliver his part of it - and he knows that.
"This game is unpredictable in more ways than one, and there aren't any guarantees attached to either a car or a driver. But I think I would say that I'm quite happy and quite optimistic that the cars will go well and both drivers will do well."
While Liuzzi's task was made slightly tougher by team-mate Adrian Sutil topping the times on day one of the Italian Grand Prix, Mallya admitted that he had had no problem releasing Fisichella for what could be an emotional swansong.
"It's pretty simple," he revealed, "Giancarlo came to me and said that it was the dream of every Italian to drive for Ferrari, and he had this unique opportunity which would fulfil a life-long ambition at the end of his career. I said 'alright, if that's what you want, and that's what makes you happy, go,' because I really honestly feel that, if I stood in his way and waved a contract at him and said 'no, I insist that you stay with us', he might have been completely demotivated.
"I had Tonio as our contracted reserve driver and he's hungry, he's motivated, wants to do the job, so I said 'let's give him a chance'."
Fisichella's departure came in the wake of producing easily Force India's best result in F1, with second place at Spa-Francorchamps, and Mallya is confident that, having got to grips with the new regulations, his team can be a threat again at Monza without the Italian.
"We always planned to have a significant aero upgrade for Valencia, which we introduced, and then, following on from there, for Spa and for Monza, and that seems to be working well for us," he reported, "The car is quick and competitive but, if we had started off with more clarity at the beginning of the year, maybe we would have done things differently.
"When we started the season, I was told by my technical team that they were not clear about the diffuser. What I understand is that we designed the car with the possibility of having a diffuser should the rule get clarified, so we were able to introduce very quickly an interim diffuser in Bahrain and then develop upon it. But, going forward into 2010, I hope that there will be clarity up front, so that everybody knows what they are doing and there won't be many surprises."