Battle of the Bull - Klien versus Liuzzi 21 Mar 2005
Few people can be as aware of the ultra-competitive nature of Formula One racing as Christian Klien at Red Bull Racing.
The young Austrian knows that he only just managed to hang onto his race seat this year after slightly inconsistent form as he battled to make his mark at what was then Jaguar Racing last season. And - as if the psychological pressure on him wasn't enough already - Klien knows that Red Bull also have a super sub' waiting in the wings in the form of third driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, whom he only just managed to pip for the race seat.
Fortunately for Klien he has made an impressive start to the season in Australia and Malaysia, finishing in seventh and eighth places respectively. He came into Formula One racing under the wing of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, and during his first season many questioned whether he had the maturity necessary to cut it in top flight motorsport. The fact he shares his Austrian nationality with Mateschitz is seen as an undoubted asset to him, but there is no doubting he also has plenty of natural racing talent he won the Formula Renault Germany series in 2002 and was second in the F3 Euro championship the year after.
Kliens problem is that Liuzzi has already proved himself as a phenomenal racing talent, dominating the Formula 3000 championship last year and being widely tipped as a natural talent in the mould of Kimi Raikkonen or Fernando Alonso. Liuzzi also enjoys a close working relationship with Christian Horner, the new Red Bull Racing boss, having competed for his Arden F3000 team last year. Kliens contract does not stipulate that he will start every race of the season, so it unless he produces searing pace it looks likely that Liuzzi will be given an opportunity to prove himself as the year progresses.
How soon could this happen? Most paddock pundits reckon that, unless he suffers from a serious decline in form, Klien will be on the grid for most of the season's races - not least as, having started 18 Grands Prix last season, he's not permitted to take on the Friday test driver role that Liuzzi is currently enjoying (he topped the times in his debut session in Melbourne). Of course, there is another, less likely possibility that Liuzzi could be called in as substitute for David Coulthard in the event that the Scotsman suffers from illness or an accident.
However it plays out, Christian Horner can enjoy his position as a team leader knowing he has a depth of talent to call on in the form of two hungry young drivers anxious to impress.