While many scoffed at his decision to join the struggling Hispania team for 2011, Vitantonio Liuzzi
insists that he is ready to stay put for another year - and not just to prolong his F1 career.
The Italian appeared destined for another series when he was dropped by Force India
to make room for Paul di Resta, but accepted the opportunity to test with HRT and, having proven to be the team's quickest, if not necessarily best-financed, option, duly signed to lead the Spanish squad this season. He clearly out-paced Narain Karthikeyan at the start of the season - as he should have, given the Indian's five-year break from F1 - and has generally had the upper hand over rookie replacement Daniel Ricciardo, although the young Australian continues to narrow the gap and, despite HRT remaining at the back of the field, is ready to commit to another year.
"We knew, since the beginning, that the season would be very difficult and that the car, unfortunately, didn't have great merits or a very high potential," Liuzzi told 422race.com
, "We knew we had to suffer, but we began this adventure with a long-term project.
"We are not complaining. I think that, at least until half season, we had a great championship. We are ahead of the Virgins and tied to the Lotuses [and] we couldn't expect more. There are still some races left, so we have to improve. Unfortunately, we are a little bit disappointed by the development of the latest 3-4 weeks, but we also have to focus on next season.
"With some luck, we can do something [in the final few races] but, realistically, every race from here to the end of the championship will be difficult for our car, since there will be tracks with a lot more downforce and we are struggling on those circuits. It will be hard, and I don't expect a lot from the last part of the championship, but I believe in 2012."
Liuzzi, who drove for Toro Rosso
before accepting a testing deal with Force India
- which morphed into a race ride when Giancarlo Fisichella
left for Ferrari
- in 2009, accepts that turbulence behind the scenes has not helped HRT's cause this season, most recently resulting in the exit of technical chief Geoff Willis apparently amid concerns over future finances.
"Surely, [the disappointing development] is due to the change of management," he confirmed, "HRT changed the boss, we passed from Hispania to Thesan Capital and this slowed a little bit the development phase. But we have to focus on 2012 and try to do a very big step forward, because we need this.
"Thesan Capital has very clear goals, they want to make the team grow and to do steps forward. Despite the work of the Carabantes being very good until then, I think Thesan have more aggressive intentions. So I'm convinced they will go on pushing and giving a big support to the team."
The identity of his possible team-mate remains unclear, despite Ricciardo's solid performances since Silverstone. The Australian is a Red Bull
protégé and could be parachuted into the Toro Rosso
line-up for 2012, and Liuzzi admits that there could be worse candidates for promotion to the midfield team.