Vitantonio Liuzzi has revealed that whilst he presently 'feels very good' at Force India F1 and has a contract to remain at the team until the end of 2011, his 'dream' is to one day compete for McLaren-Mercedes – as he eyes a similarly competitive performance in the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend as he produced in Montreal last time out.
Liuzzi has returned to the top flight full-time this season after being parachuted in to replace the Ferrari-bound Giancarlo Fisichella at Force India following Felipe Massa's Hungaroring accident last summer, but prior to that the Italian had not raced at the highest level since the end of 2007 when he was released by Scuderia Toro Rosso, five years on from his maiden F1 test outing with Williams.
Indeed, his career to-date has been very much a stop-start one, and his form during the first eight races of 2011 has been similarly patchy, with feisty performances on Sunday afternoons offset by occasionally under-par showings in qualifying the previous day – only twice has he succeeded in out-qualifying team-mate Adrian Sutil, as a marker – leaving the 28-year-old with two much to do come the grand prix itself and leaving him open to rumours that test and reserve driver Paul di Resta was being lined up to take his place.
No such accusations were able to be levelled at Liuzzi in Canada, however, with an inspired fifth position on the grid following Mark Webber's penalty, and a determined fightback to ninth place in the race following early contact with the Ferrari of Felipe Massa that left FIF1 team manager Andy Stevenson fuming [see separate story – click here
]. More drives like that, the Puglia native contends, and the future could be looking bright.
“Who would have said last year that [Webber] would now be going for the title?” he mused in an interview with Italian magazine Autosprint
, arguing that like the Australian, his best years are still to come. “I feel very good with Force India and I have an agreement with them for the whole of 2011, but my aim and my dream is to race for McLaren, who have always been my favourite team.
“As for Force India, I think that with the budget available to us, we have done a great job – and we are optimistic looking ahead, because those who have much bigger budget now need to learn to work with lower numbers.”
One of the keys to Liuzzi's much-improved Canadian showing was a chassis change prior to the race weekend – and having achieved what he is confident was a turnaround in his fortunes in F1 2010, his chief goal now, he acknowledges, is to carry on 'pushing like crazy to keep that level of performance going'.
“As soon as I got out of the car after the first practice session, I knew it was going to be a good weekend,” underlined the former World Karting Champion, reflecting upon Montreal. “We had decided to swap my chassis, and we were confident we had found a solution to the problems we were having in Turkey and Barcelona. Then when we got to Montreal, everything we did seemed to improve the car and the team worked really hard to bring some updates between Friday and Saturday, which really helped the balance.
“I knew that I felt much more comfortable, and it showed in qualifying when I got my best-ever starting position in F1. It was therefore a real shame that the first corner accident happened with Felipe, as I really feel I could have converted the qualifying into a really strong race result. Initially I was disappointed to have missed out on a chance, but we still showed we had a really strong race pace, we could overtake and we didn't give up – and that is good news for the rest of the season.