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'The car was drifting on the straights'

Tonio Liuzzi
October 25, 2010
Tonio Liuzzi scored his best result of the year in Korea © Sutton Images
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Tonio Liuzzi gives a first-hand account of his drive from 17th to sixth in treacherous conditions at the Korean Grand Prix

For the first time in a long time I had a really good feeling with the car. It was as if I was totally connected with it - working as one - and that meant I could push with complete confidence despite the tricky conditions.

In my career I have always had my best races in these conditions, the best results let's say. In F1 I have never had a winning car, so I've always had to fight to show what I can do. Low-grip conditions get the best out of me because I'm a fighter and I like these sorts of situations because you can get the very best out of the car and the best out of yourself. It's like the old saying, 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going'.

At recent races there has been a lot of speculation about my position but, as I've said before, this is my fifth year in Formula One and I don't really care about that anymore. But for sure it's still important to get results like this; to show people that when the car is good I am back in business and that I'm fast, I don't make mistakes and I'm always ready to take advantage of a chance when it comes along. So this race was not just for myself but to show to other people what I can do and it's come at the right moment to show my potential.

The only time I had a problem, or a worrying moment, was behind the safety car at the start when I hit the brakes and nothing really happened. There was no heat in the tyres or the brakes and with the circuit so slippery the car wouldn't stop. That was the most dangerous point of my race, the rest of the time I was on the limit but the car felt really good and I could hold it there.

Tonio Liuzzi holds a big slide in his Force India © Sutton Images
It might not have looked like it, but it was a very intense way to start a race. To do nearly 20 laps behind a safety car is really hard work. I was kept really busy, trying to keep the tyres warm, which is very difficult when you are going slowly and all you can do is weave left and right. And, although the rain wasn't really heavy, the amount of water on the track was just incredible. There was so much spray that it was really difficult to see anything if you were behind another car.

Fortunately race control made the decision to start under the safety car and to wait until the heaviest rain had past. Usually I don't step back from dangerous situations, but the problem was down to the new asphalt. The water was just building up on the surface and it turned into a complete river everywhere, meaning visibility was really bad and the car was aquaplaning. The problem is that it's not like Monaco where you will have slow-speed accident if you skid off, Korea is a fast circuit with many concrete barriers and it's quite likely that if you lose control you'll crash into the wall at 250-300 km/h. That makes it very dangerous in wet conditions and that's why it was the right decision to delay the start.

When we did start racing properly the conditions were just about right to go racing, but the grip level was still really, really low. It was difficult for everyone and you could see a lot of drivers locking under braking and making mistakes because there was so little grip. The problem was that the oils from the newly-laid tarmac were mixing with the water and it was like soap coming out of the track surface.

But it was a really fun race because there was a real emphasis on driver skill and not making any mistakes. You had to try and stay on the track but then also be prepared to overtake when the opportunity came up. It was a really intense.

I also think that we made the right decision with tyres, because we were forced to start with the full wets and then there was the question of when to pit for intermediates. The team were ready to do it on about lap 22 when Nick Heidfeld swapped tyres but, although I thought that the track looked good enough for inters, I could feel that the grip wasn't there yet. So I said to the team that it would be better to stick with full wets and wait for the track to get better.

It was the right call because during the second safety car period we changed to intermediates and gained some positions. The team nailed the pit stop and after that it was all about keeping the car on the track and not doing anything silly.

Tonio Liuzzi holds off Jenson Button's McLaren © Sutton Images
At one point I had Jenson Button behind me and I thought he was going to breeze straight past, but I was faster and I was able to pull away from him. Even when I was behind Robert Kubica towards the end of the race I was faster and I was able to catch him but wasn't able to overtake him.

I got past the two Williams when they had tyre problems and that was a big relief because we are fighting against them for sixth in the constructors' championship. Every point is vital for us, so that was a great achievement as they have been closing at recent races.

The last seven or eight laps were tough, because my tyres were gone and the car was even drifting on the straights. So it was just about not making a mistake and controlling the slides as much as possible until the end.

In the last couple of laps maybe it was a bit too dark. It was a difficult just to look ahead because the lights on the steering wheel were so bright and I was being a little bit blinded. But there were no accidents due to the darkness and, although it was very dull, I have to say that there was still enough light to keep racing. I suppose it is different for everybody, but I like these added challenges and new games.

I think it is pretty clear that in these conditions we are very quick and it would suit me if we had rain again in Brazil. But we know we can't rely on the weather and the team is still doing everything possible to beat Williams, because at the moment it is fair to say they have a better package. I've come away from Korea on a positive so hopefully we can keep that going for the next two races.