Vitantonio Liuzzi has admitted that he faces a nervous wait to see if he will still be on the F1 grid in 2012, despite insisting that he has an ongoing contract with Spanish team HRT.
The Italian veteran, who has never had a chance to repeat his F3000 title-winning form after racing for a series of, at best, midfield teams since graduating to the top flight, was a surprise choice to partner Narain Karthikeyan and, latterly, Daniel Ricciardo at HRT in 2011, but remains unconfirmed for next season. HRT is just one of two teams, along with Williams, with a seat to confirm for 2012, despite Liuzzi insisting that he has a deal in place to drive next season [see story here
“In early 2011, we agreed on a long-term contract with HRT,” he told Australian Motorsport News
before Christmas, “It would have made no sense to sign with a team at this level on just a one-year contract; you have to make it a project for the future and that is why I want to stay in 2012.”
Since then, however, the Italian - who is no stranger to being bought out of F1 contracts - has admitted that the strength of his deal could hinge on a technicality, with new team owners Thesan Capital taking over the reins midway through 2011 and Liuzzi supporter Colin Kolles having now left his position as team principal.
“I have a contract to race next season with HRT, but the agreement was concluded with the previous owner [Jose Ramon Carabante] and now the future is uncertain,” he conceded to TotalRace.com
Ironically, Liuzzi claimed as recently as the Italian Grand Prix that Thesan's involvement could only be good for the team, which has already begun to re-establish itself as a more Spain-centric operation with the signing of veteran Pedro de la Rosa, reserve driver overtures towards GP2 racewinner Dani Clos and plans to relocate to Valencia. HRT has also secured further technical links with Williams, but still admits that 2012 will be a difficult season as it continues to rebuild [see story here
“I have to say that the team has made a good step forward in terms of stability – we improved,” former Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India pilot Liuzzi told the official FIA website in September, “At the beginning, everybody wasn't sure, there were a lot of talks about the rest of the season, continuity, things like that. I think the Carabantes did a really great job before but now, with the new owners, Thesan Capital, there seems to be a big future for the team, they are planning to make a big step forward from next year on.
“At the moment, also because of this change of owners, we had a bit of a slowing down in terms of development this season, because all the upgrades we were planning didn't arrive in time. We are maybe one or two months behind the schedule but the big project is for the future, for 2012 and I have to say the new owner Thesan are planning big things for the team. I hope we will move forward as soon as possible, but we are planning highly for 2012.”
With HRT insisting that there is no rush to name de la Rosa's team-mate - “We are in advanced talks with several drivers but we can't anticipate anything yet,” new team principal Luis Perez Sala admitted recently, "It's a decision we surely won't make until the start of next year" - and several other names being pushed into the frame, including Spanish Toro Rosso outcast Jaime Alguersuari, Liuzzi knows that he will face pressure from drivers potentially bringing greater financial strength to the outfit.
Former employer Christian Horner admits that, while Red Bull is now in a position to employ the drivers it wants, 'pay drivers' will always be a factor in F1.
“Throughout the history of the sport, you always see [drivers paying for race seats]," he told TotalRace.com
, "If you look at all
the teams, it has always been a matter of trying to balance the money that goes with the talent of the driver. It's difficult, but it has taken place since F1 came into existence. There's nothing different now.”