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Mixed emotions

Tonio Liuzzi
June 15, 2010
Tonio Liuzzi ahead of his strong race performance in Canada © Sutton Images

At the Canadian Grand Prix Tonio Liuzzi bounced back from his recent dip in form to qualify fifth and finish a manic race ninth. In this week's column he reflects on his first lap incident with Felipe Massa, the benefits of tyre degradation for F1 and Michael Schumacher's racecraft.

As soon as I got out of the car after the first practice session I knew it was going to be a good weekend. In the week leading up to the race we had decided to swap my chassis and we were confident we had found a solution to the problems we were having in Turkey and Barcelona. Then when we got to Montreal, everything we did seemed to improve the car and the team worked really hard to bring some updates between Friday and Saturday which really helped the balance.

But when you are so competitive, you always want to capitalise with the best possible result and it's a shame we didn't do that. I really believed we could have finished in the top five and it's not at every race we'll get that opportunity. All the other teams were having a normal weekend, it wasn't like Malaysia where McLaren and Ferrari were starting from the back; our speed was proper speed and it was by far the best qualifying I'd had all year.

Considering a lot of the car was missing after the first corner accident with Felipe Massa, we had a really strong race pace too, and that is good news for the rest of the season. We fought back to a points paying position and we showed all the other teams that they have to be careful, because if they relax we will be there to catch them up.

Looking back at the crash with Massa, it was really frustrating. A lot of the time drivers want to win the race in the first corner, but you can't. I think Jenson Button and I had a pretty similar start but Felipe got off the line better than us, which brought him alongside. Unfortunately there wasn't enough space, and I couldn't just disappear because I was on the inside and had a better line. Felipe closed the door and I tried to get as far to the left as possible, but if I'd gone any further I would have been on the grass.

Tonio Liuzzi collides with Felipe Massa at the start of the race © Getty Images
I think Felipe could have been a bit more careful, because from where I was sat I thought he could have left more of a door open to give me some space. I didn't speak to Felipe after the race because I know he would have just said that Jenson was closing from the other side; there is always an excuse in these situations and it doesn't change anything to talk about it. It was just upsetting because I couldn't do much about it and we were starting from such a good position.

So that accident meant we had to pit for a new front wing and that put me onto a strategy where I had to do 46 laps on one set of prime tyres. It was not easy to keep the tyres together because the degradation of the rears was very high, but in a way I prefer that kind of racing when you really have to manage the car, it's better than having just one pit stop and everyone on the same strategy. When the tyres are difficult to manage it means the driver has to think a lot more about driving and the team has to think a lot more about strategy. It becomes a lot more unpredictable and that makes it more exciting to watch

It was not that the tyres weren't good enough in Canada, it was just that they were a soft compound for the track surface. Unfortunately the compounds for this year are set and Bridgestone won't start bringing softer tyres to races all of a sudden to liven up the show. But the important thing is that the paddock has realised that the racing is better when we have softer tyres and next year it is definitely something that the new tyre manufacturer should consider. It would give us something to look forward to, both for the show and for us to drive. But I must also say that Bridgestone is doing a great job with the brief they were given this year, it's just a shame they weren't encouraged to be a bit more aggressive.

Tonio Liuzzi got the better of Michael Schumacher in Canada © Sutton Images
A case in point was my battle with Michael Schumacher towards the end of the grand prix, which wouldn't have happened at previous races. He was struggling much more than me because he was on the super soft tyres that were way past the end of their life. I had pushed so hard to come back through the field and just about had an advantage over him because I was on the hard tyres. When my team told me on the radio it was the last lap and I had to pass Michael, I pushed even harder and then took the chance to pass him when he left the door slightly open.

Fortunately Michael is always great to compete against and I think all the drivers can learn from him because he is always really professional. He's not like some of the other drivers who just close the eyes, shut the door and crash into you. When I have raced against him he has always acted perfectly and I have absolutely no complaints.

Looking forward, Valencia is another track that could suit us quite well. We did well there last year and it was the first race when we started pushing to be closer to the points. We want to fight against everybody; we hope we can repeat the performance of Montreal where we were mixing it with Mercedes and Renault, but I know it will be tough. We are planning to bring some more developments to the front and the rear of the car which should help, but they won't be immediately obvious to the untrained eye.

I will stick with the chassis I used in Canada from now on because it is working well in the corners, although our top speed is not quite as high as it should be. We need to understand why that is, because there is no reason why we should be losing top speed because of the chassis. More than anything, though, I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and challenging for some more points.