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Exclusive interview - Tonio Liuzzi 01 Dec 2006

Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Scuderia Torro Rosso Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain. 29 November 2006. World © Bumstead/Sutton

Toro Rosso’s Vitantanio Liuzzi has always been among the most colourful drivers on the grid, but over the past season he has also developed into one of the most consistent and reliable. With both his style and his driving skill ingratiating him to Red Bull’s management, it looks like a bright future for the young Italian. We caught up with him in Barcelona this week…

Q: Five weeks after you got out of the car in Brazil, how keen were you to get back in?
I could not wait to be back, even if it’s just for testing. I’m always hungry for racing and I like the adrenalin that driving a Formula One car gives me every time. I always want to improve and every kilometre on the track is a challenge with myself - and I love challenges.

Q: Watching you in the paddock over the past season you always gave the impression that Formula One racing is funky and sexy. Now you’re heading into your second year, will we see a more worldly-wise Tonio Liuzzi?
I am what I am independently from Formula One. What you see in the paddock is Tonio in civil clothes, who is just a young guy living, being himself in a Formula One environment. Funky and sexy? I can’t tell you. But when I wear my race overall, that’s the moment in which the committed driver comes out and I’m fully focused on my job. It’s so nice when a passion becomes a job. You will always see the same Tonio in the paddock but I hope you will also see an always more expert driver on track.

Q: There has been big internal competition for the cockpits at the two Red Bull teams. How self-centred do you have to be to secure your position?
I don’t think there’s ever been competition for cockpits in Toro Rosso. Scott (Speed) and I have started and finished the first season together. Don’t take your seat for granted... you have to never make this mistake! I don’t think you have to be egoist because there’s no way to secure your position. You just have to give out your best, for yourself and for the team you represent, for all the people that work with you and around you and for all the fans and spectators that love this amazing sport. This way you’ve done your job...what can you do more?

Q: You have tried the Bridgestone Potenza tyres now for the first time, obviously a very different type of tyre to those used last season - what were your first impressions?
I have had now only two days in this car (the 2006-spec STR1) with the new Bridgestone tyres and it’s not enough obviously. They are really different and we are still struggling to find the right balance to achieve the best result from the actual package. We have just started to understand how the Bridgestone Potenza tyres affect the car and we still have got a lot of work to do. We will also attend the next two sessions in Jerez and maybe we will have a clearer idea then. The potential is undeniable and it’s up to us to make them work as they can do.

Q: What effect does that have on your style of driving?
For sure your driving has to be very precise and clean and if distractions are always not permitted, now this is true even more. I have to learn optimizing a car which has got different reactions to the ones I was used to before.

Q: And what about the car set-up? The adjustment process seems to be a difficult one for Toro Rosso?
If you are referring to our performance here in Barcelona, the aim for this test, and the next to come, is not to find the best lap time. We are working to understand the behaviour of the old car in the actual different conditions, acquiring all the data which can be useful to set-up next year’s car. Our task here is merely technical, to find a good starting point for the new STR2 for next season.

Q: Last season you paid your dues by scoring Toro Rosso’s only point. What are your personal goals for 2007?
I can’t deny that I’m very happy having given the first point to the team. It was great to see all the people in the team repaid, even if not in the same measure, for all their work and effort. We knew 2006 could not be easy and also 2007 will be quite tough, but the expectations are higher for next season. My personal goals? First of all I want to make good use of the experience I gained in 2006 and harvest the fruits of my labour. I want to give back what the team has given me this past season together. Scoring a point has to become something less ‘special’ and ‘rare’, a sort of pleasant habit. I’m really confident we can score consistent points - and have a great season!

Q: It’s goodbye Cosworth and hello Ferrari for Toro Rosso in 2007. When will the Ferrari-powered car hit the track for the first time - and what expectations go with the change of engine?
It is not possible at the moment to confirm a precise date but we expect the new car and the new engine to be ready at the end of January. The expectations are high. The name Ferrari is a guarantee of success and it would be a huge satisfaction to see an Italian team, with an Italian car powered by an Italian engine, making a big step forward together. The marriage of Toro Rosso-Ferrari revitalizes our competitive spirit.

Q: Toro Rosso have performed better than expected over the past season. Do you sense any jealousy from the Red Bull Racing guys, given that you are supposed to be the company’s ‘junior’ team?
No jealousy, but competitiveness. Toro Rosso is not a number-two team and it was never supposed to always be behind Red Bull Racing. We both want to do the best and to be the best, and we fight each other as we do with any other team on the track. Sport is not the right place for jealousy, but rather for a sound competitiveness.