Vitantonio Liuzzi has spoken positively about Force India F1's chances in this year's Formula One world championship, claiming that the Silverstone team can hope to be leading the chase of the expected frontrunners.
Speaking to 422race.com
between the Jerez and Barcelona group tests, the Italian reported that Force India had been encouraged by the immediate performance of its third car, the VJM03, and, despite the loss of technical director James Key [see story here
], was pressing on with its development ahead of the first race of the season, in Bahrain, next month.
"I have to say we are very happy," revealed Liuzzi, who is poised for his first full season of racing since being dropped by Toro Rosso in 2007, "The car seems to be born well and is improving more and more. We still have one test next week in Barcelona, where we'll have a lot of development towards the race in Bahrain, so I have to say we are confident for a good beginning of the season.
"We always have to try and understand what the other teams did during the winter but, unfortunately, with the regulation changes on the fuel, it's difficult to see where the others are. We'll have to wait for Bahrain but, as Force India, we are at a good level."
Asked where he expected the comparative minnow to fit into the pecking order, especially after it established itself as a contender for points towards the end of 2009, Liuzzi admitted that he expected more of the same - and even competing with some potential powerhouses.
"For sure, McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari are the favourites, and I think they will fight for the championship, but I think we can be immediately after them," he claimed, "Surely, not on the podium, but trying to get to the points much more often than last year."
With just a handful of races under his belt having replaced Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India line-up last season, Liuzzi heads into 2010 knowing that it could be make-or-break for his career - especially with test driver Paul di Resta waiting in the wings - but his determined not to let the opportunity slip through his fingers.
"Definitely, one-and-a-half years of waiting [to race again] was difficult to swallow, but now I'm ready," he insisted, "Last year, I showed from Monza that we were immediately back and very aggressive and, this year, we're going to do a season at a high level. We just hope the car will be okay for all the championship."