Tonio Liuzzi has said he feels Hispania Racing be closer to the rest of the field in Shanghai this weekend, even if the team already has one eye on 2012.
For the second successive season, the Spanish outfit struggled to be ready in time for the opening race of the season and, with the return of the 107% qualifying rule, failed to make it into the Australian Grand Prix.
Progress was made in Malaysia where both Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan were able to qualify, although neither driver finished the race after being retired by the team over safety concerns – with one eye on making sure there was no major problems to be dealt with in the short turnaround between Malaysia and China this weekend.
Despite the trouble start to life with the new F111, which was built late after the team's planned relationship with Toyota motorsport fell through, Liuzzi said he was confident of progress in Shanghai as the team focuses on growing during the season ahead of a push forwards in 2012.
“I think we went to Malaysia with more understanding about the new car,” he said. “We showed a much stronger result. For sure we have to still work hard and the team is pushing a lot. Already here we have some upgrades. We will have some more for Turkey so everything will be better. The team starts to work much more professionally so everything is going in the right direction.
“I think we will be close in this race. We will close the gap even more in the next few races. The car and the team are growing. The developments should be coming soon so it will depend also how other teams will react in these next few races. Virgin is the closest team with whom we have a gap who we could fight. Lotus made a big step forward but our intention is to grow more and more this year and to put the right basis for a proper 2012.”
Liuzzi added that he wasn't concerned about the chances of Hispania failing to qualify again this season, given that Malaysia was the one venue where the team believed it was most at risk of missing out on a place on the grid.
“I think it shouldn't be a problem anymore,” he said. “In Australia it was a problem as we did not have a kilometre in the car so we did not know what to expect. In Malaysia we were well under the 107 per cent and Malaysia is maybe the toughest circuit for that kind of problems. We are planning to improve the car soon and every race so we hope that we don't face any more that issue as we want to fight closer and closer with our competitors and be ahead of them soon.”