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Vitantonio Liuzzi

Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Hispania Racing Team.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain,  Saturday, 19 February 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Hispania Racing Team HRT F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain,  Saturday, 19 February 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Hispania Racing Team HRT F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain,  Saturday, 19 February 2011 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 19, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 14 November 2010 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006

Vitantonio Liuzzi was hailed as ‘the next big thing’ when he originally arrived in Formula One racing from F3000 back in 2005. As yet, the flamboyant Italian - renowned as much for his dress sense as his driving - has not quite lived up to the hype, but many in the paddock believe it could yet happen.

Born in Locorotondo in 1981, Liuzzi was barely ten years old when he began his karting career. It quickly became clear he was a winner and in 1993 he took the Italian championship title. He would spend the next few years moving steadily up through the karting ranks, scoring some notable successes along the way, including the 1999 European crown and victory in that year’s Ayrton Senna Memorial Trophy at Suzuka. His karting achievements culminated with the world title in 2001, by which time he was also proving his worth in single-seaters, finishing runner-up in that year’s German Formula Renault series.

From there, Liuzzi’s career progressed quickly. In 2002 he contested the highly-competitive German Formula Three series, immediately displaying the kind of talent that would attract the attention of Formula One team bosses. Three podiums and a pole-to-flag victory in the international F3 round at Imola did just that - he earned his first Formula One test, with Williams, that autumn.

Determined to keep moving up the ladder, Liuzzi stepped up to Formula 3000 for 2003, where he again made an instant impression with the Red Bull Junior Team. A dazzling display in Hungary saw him take pole by almost half a second on a circuit he barely knew and only a jamming wheel nut during a pit stop prevented him taking a maiden win. He claimed fourth place overall in the championship - and with it Rookie of the Year honours and a drive with Christian Horner’s Arden International squad for the following year.

Now Liuzzi had the equipment he needed to prove what he was truly capable of - and he did not waste the opportunity. Seven victories from the ten rounds saw him ease to the championship crown. They also left him sharing the record for most F3000 wins with the illustrious names of Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld. There was only one place left to go - and that was a Formula One seat.

Silly season rumours had Liuzzi down as driving for Ferrari in 2005. He did actually test for Peter Sauber’s Ferrari-powered squad, but when they opted to sign former champion Jacques Villeneuve, Liuzzi accepted a rather unusual position with Red Bull Racing - he was effectively third driver, but would also get a handful of race outings, trading places with Christian Klien. The first of those outings came at the San Marino Grand Prix and it was an impressive debut. He all but matched team mate David Coulthard in qualifying before going on to beat the highly experienced Scot. Despite this, he made just three more race appearances in ’05 and it was Klien who was given the full-time RBR seat for 2006.

Liuzzi’s consolation was a drive with Red Bull’s newly-purchased ‘B-team’, Scuderia Toro Rosso, formerly Minardi. The car was far from competitive and only occasionally did it allow the Italian’s driving prowess to shine through. In Australia he qualified 12th - splitting the two RBR cars - and at Indianapolis he came home eighth to take his and the team’s only point of the season. Then, with Klien’s fortunes fading at Red Bull, it looked like Liuzzi might be recalled by the ‘A-team’ for ‘07 - that was until they signed Mark Webber.

Hence Liuzzi remained with Toro Rosso for 2007, but despite an all-new car and Ferrari power, rarely was he able to show Formula One audiences the skills that had so thrilled his fans back in F3000. Only at the season's penultimate round in China did things finally come together for a well-deserved sixth place.

But it wasn't enough to retain the seat and for 2008 he headed to Force India as the team's test driver. He combined his F1 duties with race appearances in the Speedcar Series, winning the inaugural round in Dubai. His situation remained pretty much unchanged until September 2009, when Giancarlo Fisichella's departure to Ferrari to replace the injured Felipe Massa put Liuzzi back on the Grand Prix grid at last. An 11th in Brazil was his best result, but his pace was good enough to keep the seat for 2010.

That was to prove a difficult season for Liuzzi, who was yet again prevented from showing his true colours by a combination of car issues and poor luck. The record shows he finished 15th overall, with less than half the points of Force India team mate Adrian Sutil. In reality their form was far closer, but that didn't stop Liuzzi losing his drive to Scottish rookie Paul di Resta at the end of the year. After a tense wait, however, Liuzzi landed a place on the 2011 grid with HRT, less than a month before the start of the season.