In his first column of 2011, Tonio Liuzzi talks to ESPNF1 about his trying weekend at Albert Park and the "really weird" feeling of not starting the race on Sunday after both HRTs failed to qualify.
For sure we struggled during the weekend because of the issues with the car and the super-short timeframe to get everything ready. We basically had two months of work to get through in just one grand prix weekend.
We started on Friday and we couldn't achieve any laps other than an installation lap at the end of the day. All the parts of the car were arriving and we had to do some work at the track that, in normal circumstances, would have been done in December or January. We had to get the proper parts fixed and mounted in time for an installation lap, so that delayed the car preparation and that's why we did just one lap on Friday.
Then on Saturday morning we were forced to stop on track with just a stupid issue with an electronic button, so in the final practice we also couldn't achieve any laps before the car came together for qualifying.
Overall I think we can be positive about getting the car running in such a short amount of time, but for sure it was not a positive weekend because of missing the race. It was a really weird feeling watching the action from the sidelines on Sunday. It felt so strange not getting changed into my race kit before - there were lots of strange things. But yeah, that's how it is.
Not knowing the car at all before qualifying, I wasn't too optimistic about getting into the race and getting within 107% of the fastest time in Q1. But looking at the lap time we managed with just eleven laps, I think we can be positive for the future.
Of course it seems a bit unfair for the team that we didn't race after getting the car out to Australia, and we asked for a bit of common sense to see if we could get some more mileage on the car in the race. In F1 it's all professional drivers and I don't see a big problem with having cars lapping at over 107% as long as everyone is sensible when it comes to lapping. The difference in budgets between F1 teams is huge so it's normal to see this kind of difference on track between the leaders and the slower cars at the start of the season.
We paid the consequence of being late from the beginning, so now for Malaysia we should be fully ready for our first race of the season. I think things will be different there but, unfortunately, if I was to say at the beginning of the year which track would be worst for the 107% rule I would have said Malaysia because of its characteristics. Even so, I still think we can show improvement compared to Australia and good pace compared to Virgin.
Virgin is a realistic target, although before the start of the season our ultimate target was for tenth place in the championship by the end of the year. It's true that Lotus didn't look that strong in Australia, but the first race is always difficult for everybody so we will have to see how they go in Malaysia before we set our sights too high. Most of all we are focused on our own performance. We will have lots of new parts on the car, the proper front nose and wing, some better rear dampers - we have a lot of things to change for Malaysia, so I think we will be in much better shape.
Looking at the front of the grid I think Red Bull can run away with the championship this year. I was surprised by the pace of McLaren, but Red Bull have been so naturally fast since testing and of course they are coming off the back of being the fastest team of last year which gives them an easier job. I doubt that they will have many competitors this year because they have a really strong pace, even compared to 2010.