• Tonio Liuzzi's ESPNF1 column

'My most difficult race of 2011'

Tonio Liuzzi November 15, 2011
Tonio Liuzzi in the cockpit of the HRT © Sutton Images
Related Links

Abu Dhabi was one of my most difficult races of the year because of a problem with the handling of the car in qualifying and the race. One of the brackets on the lower suspension came loose as I went over a kerb on my first lap in qualifying and, even though that didn't compromise the car's integrity, it meant the whole lower part of the suspension was moving around. As a result the balance of the car was changing in every corner - in the left-hand corners I had massive understeer and in the right-hand corners I had massive oversteer. But we still put up a fight because up to that point we had been having a great weekend.

On Friday and on Saturday morning we looked really, really strong and I felt that I was set for my best qualifying session of the season. That's one of the reasons why I kept pushing despite the suspension, because I was hoping I could still achieve something, even with an unstable car. Unfortunately any chance of a decent result went completely out of the window when I came across traffic on my fast lap, which probably what cost me a grid position to Jerome d'Ambrosio.

Between qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday you are allowed to replace broken parts, but you are not allowed to change the setup of the car or completely rebuild it - which is what the car needed. The team changed the suspension bracket but there was more to the problem than that and, although we tried to optimise the package within the regulations, as soon as I jumped in the car for the lap to the grid I could feel that it wasn't right. We had a massive cross weight between the left and right and that was still creating understeer in the left-hand corners and massive oversteer in the right corners from the first lap - I just had to deal with it.

Tonio Liuzzi broke the HRT's suspension on Yas Marina's kerbs © Sutton Images
Put simply, it was a terrible race to drive as the car was changing its handling from lap to lap and generally being inconsistent. Despite all that we were actually pretty strong, especially at the start when I passed seven or eight cars on the first lap. I enjoyed all the close racing in the first stint, with the Lotus, the Saubers and a Renault, but it wasn't an even fight as I went wheel-to-wheel with them.

Knowing that the car was so difficult to drive, we decided to go for a one-stop strategy because we wanted to try something different to the cars around us. In the end it didn't pay off at all and we were struggling even more with the tyres because of the handling problem. Overall it was a shame because we had the pace on Friday to finish ahead of the Virgins, but because of the suspension issue it wasn't to be.

We've changed quite a few things on the car from Korea, which was my last race, and those tweaks seemed to have work quite wel during practice. But after we failed to get the car up to speed after fixing my suspension on Saturday night, my only hope is that the team finds the real problem with the car before Brazil so I can go there feeling as positive as I did after FP3 in Abu Dhabi. If everything is 100% I think we can have a strong weekend and that will give us the chance to close the season on a positive.

Looking to next year, everything is now moving forward. The choice to go with Williams on the gearbox and KERS seems to be a really strong decision for the future and should continue to help us. Work on the tub is already making progress so everything is happening within the normal timeframe of a proper F1 team. Everything looks more positive for 2012 and I think the step we can make will be quite a big one.

I think the job I've done for the team is starting to pay off because we've definitely moved forward, but of course the proof will come in February when we start testing the new car. We'll also have a new base in Valencia and the ultimate aim is to have everything under one roof, which is one of the things that has maybe held back our development this year. As I've said before, it's all moving in the right direction and I'm really positive about it.