Exclusive interview - Toro Rossos Vitantonio Liuzzi 25 Jun 2007
It wouldnt be hard for the Toro Rosso squad to feel downhearted at the moment. With both cars retiring in Bahrain, Spain and Canada and one retiring in the Melbourne, Monte Carlo and Indianapolis races, the team have scored only one two-car finish all season. Driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, however, is determined to keep smiling. And with the prospect of a new gearbox for the STR2 at Magny-Cours, Liuzzi believes Red Bulls junior team might finally get its wings.
Q: How satisfied are you with the season so far?
Vitantonio Liuzzi: I am really satisfied. At different circuits like Monaco or Montreal, I have shown that I can get a good position in qualifying. The team itself is growing a lot, but we have a lot still to learn, although with Giorgio Scanelli as our new technical director we are learning ten-times faster than we did last year. I would say that the learning curve is going well, even though I have to admit that we still make a lot of mistakes too. I would still say that we are one of the most inexperienced teams in the field, as we are very young. We know that we need better results, and we are working hard to get there.
Q: In the Monaco and Montreal qualifying sessions, you made it into Q2. Can we expect even better results in the coming races?
VL: Yes, even though we are handicapped because of the difficulties with our gearbox. The Silverstone tests went well, and we should have a new gearbox ready from Magny-Cours, which should give us better lap times. This should bring us into Q3, which would be a huge step forward for us.
Q: Was your retirement in Montreal down to driver error, and if so, did this lead to any discussions about your future with the team?
VL: Well, it was clearly not a mistake from my side, as I ran over some parts from Robert Kubica's crash, which led to damage to the front right tyre and in the area of the suspension. I could feel this for the next 20 laps, as the car was not behaving as it was before. Of course, this happened at a time when it should not have happened and I was doing really well in P4 or P5. Then in a corner, where many good drivers make mistakes, but nobody ever crashes, I turned the steering wheel and the car went straight on. I was very disappointed, as we could have scored some points.
Q: After a poor season, teams tend to change their driver line-up
VL: Well, I consider this as part of the business. The drivers are always the first ones to be blamed by the bosses. At the moment I think we are having a great season, for the car that we have. We are improving and I think that looking ahead to next season, we could be very competitive. The driver market for next year is starting now but I don't see why the team should change something to our line-up. In addition, I have the feeling that there is no real driving talents coming up from the lesser series who could replace us.
Q: Would you agree that you are the leading driver in Toro Rossos pecking order?
VL: Well, this could be right. When you look at qualifying, the standings are 6-1 in my favour. And the one that I lost out on was because there was no fuel in the car and I had to stop. But Scott (Speed) is a quick driver and he pushes me to the limit, which I like a lot as it means I can get more out of myself. In these terms, I am really satisfied with my performance.
Q: With some promising new drivers coming through the ranks, how much pressure is on you to retain your seat next season?
VL: Well, it is very big. But I did not come into Formula One through the main entrance. I started as a third driver for Red Bull and than as a driver for Toro Rosso, which still had the performance of the Minardi team. So we had to grow together and learning in F1 takes a lot of time and patience. Of course, Lewis (Hamilton) is doing a great job, but if he had started in a Minardi car, it could have been different for him.
But this is also part of the business. Sometimes you are lucky and you can start with a team that can win races. And of course I am in a hurry, as I want to show what I am capable of doing, which puts a lot of pressure on me.
Q: Last year the team seemed much more easygoing. This year the wind seems to be blowing a little colder
VL: Yes, thats right. Red Bulls investment in Toro Rosso is quite high, and they are expecting results. But we also have to remember, that Rome wasn't built in a day. Ferrari were struggling for several years, up until they put the right people together. From then on, they had a two-year learning phase and then they started to win races. Of course, now everybody is upset, as everybody is expecting better results. But it will take some more time!
Q: What do you think are the cars shortfalls?
VL: Of course we have to work on the mechanical parts, but aerodynamic changes are also important. We need to improve downforce and mechanically we need to work hard on traction and rolling speed. And if we have the gearbox ready for Magny-Cours, we can make a big step forward on the grid this could make a lot of people smile again.