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'It could have been a nasty one'

Tonio Liuzzi November 15, 2010
Tonio Liuzzi ploughs into Michael Schumacher's stricken Mercedes, bringing an end to both their races © Getty Images

It was a real downer to end my season with another first lap accident that wasn't my fault. I was really up for trying to get in the points to help Force India fight for sixth position in the constructors' against Williams, but it didn't work out and my race lasted just six corners.

I had a really good start and everything was going to plan as I managed to pass a couple of cars. Crucially I got past the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg and I was hoping to have him covered off for the rest of the race. It was all shaping up nicely but when I approached turn six I was right behind my team-mate Adrian Sutil and he suddenly moved to avoid Michael Schumacher's stricken Mercedes. I was confronted by a red helmet in the middle of a big cloud of tyre smoke, as Michael had kept his throttle flat and had spun up his rear tyres.

I tried to avoid him but I was blocked on both the left and the right and there was nowhere to go. I tried to brake as soon as I realised there wasn't a chance to turn out of the way, but by that time there was no avoiding the crash. I went over the top of him - fortunately he wasn't injured - but it could have been a nasty one.

As soon as the accident happened I feared for Michael and jumped out of the cockpit of my car as quickly as possible to help him. Fortunately he was already out of the car and everything was okay. In open cockpit racing the head of the driver is always vulnerable as there is nothing to protect it apart from the helmet. We saw that with Felipe Massa last year in Hungary and it could have been as bad or worse with Michael at the weekend.

Tonio Liuzzi and Michael Schumacher get out of their cars after the shunt © Getty Images
Michael is a good mate - he's one of the good ones - and he's really professional and immediately apologised for being in the middle of the track. I think he thought he made contact with Nico Rosberg but afterwards it looked as if he had the spin all by himself. But it wasn't his fault and there was nothing he could do to avoid the collision.

I think some people have been surprised by Schumacher's form this season, but he will be better next year. Coming back after three years out of the sport is not easy, especially with the regulation changes we've had since 2006, but he's improved over the season. It depends a lot on how good the Mercedes car is in 2011, but I'm sure we'll see a more competitive Michael.

After the accident I watched the rest of the race from our hospitality suite because I was keen to see what would happen at the front. I was pretty sure Sebastian Vettel would win the race, but I didn't expect him to win the championship because I thought Ferrari would have chosen a better strategy.

Of course it's always easy to say that with the benefit of hindsight, but it certainly didn't pan out as they wanted at the beginning of the race and then in the pit stops they put too much of their focus on Mark Webber when they should have been watching Vettel as well. Ferrari was not as competitive as people expected and I think no one banked on the Renault being that strong in the race and on the straights with its F-duct - that caught them out.

Tonio Liuzzi and Michael Schumacher talk in the paddock on their way to watch the rest of the race © Sutton Images
As for whether Vettel was the most deserving champion of the top four drivers, I would say yes and no. I don't think there was much separating him from Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Webber, but he did come out on top

I think Alonso was really strong in the middle and end of the season, which shouldn't be forgotten. I also think that Lewis was in a really good position but McLaren wasn't as competitive in the final races as it was expecting to be. It wasn't Lewis's fault, he would have never have let it go because he had a really strong championship up to that point. Webber and Vettel both had good championships but they also had the advantage of having the best car, and everything is much easier when you are in that position.

Looking back at my season with Force India, I think we have to be proud of our efforts, the team worked well together and I am very proud of all of them. We mustn't forget that we are a small team and we were competing against the big guys, so I think we have to be proud of seventh in the constructors' championship, it's a good achievement and it's what we wanted to achieve.

We fought until the end for sixth position with Williams and from my point of view it's just a shame that we lost a few points on the road by having some problems with the car. We had a couple of problems with the F-duct and stuff like that, which was the difference between scoring points and missing out at some rounds. But this is the business we are in and we have to accept the good and the bad things.

Tonio Liuzzi relaxes in the paddock with his girlfriend © Sutton Images
As for next year, I have a contract with Force India for 2011 so I am pretty confident that everything will stay the same. We have only just finished this championship and we haven't spoken about it that much in the team. I see myself at Force India and from what I've heard that also seems to be the team's intention. At the moment I don't know who my team-mate will be, I guess it will be Adrian, but I still don't know for certain.

Right now I'm staying In Abu Dhabi for six days to unwind after a long championship before I get a taste of the 2011 tyres next Saturday at the Pirelli test. I think they will change the handling of the car quite a bit because Bridgestone and Pirelli have quite different technology systems and quite a different philosophy for constructing tyres. I think there will be quite a big change in handling, but I'm looking forward to see exactly how it affects the dynamics of the car.

Personally, I'm kind of hoping the tyres do require a different style because it has always been one of my strengths to adapt to different cars and handling requirements. That's why it's so important to get this first taste of the tyre and understand which way to go with the balance of the car for 2011.

After the test I will be starting my preparations for next year and I'm looking forward to getting to grips with the new Force India in testing next February.