• Tonio Liuzzi's ESPNF1 column

'The longest race ever'

Tonio Liuzzi June 27, 2011

Hispania driver Tonio Liuzzi reflects on his gruelling European Grand Prix and reveals his team's plans to improve his car

Tonio Liuzzi keeps cool ahead of the race © Sutton Images
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For me the European Grand Prix seemed like the longest race ever. We knew as early as Friday that we were struggling quite a bit with the rear tyres overheating and wearing, and that came back to haunt us in the race.

We went for a three stop strategy but we were struggling for pace towards the end of each stint and that's where we lost out to our rivals Virgin. We were able to compete with them for the first 12 laps of every stint, but they were taking less life out of the tyres and we finished behind them as a result.

For sure the layout of the track and the hotter temperatures didn't help, but the other teams managed and we probably struggled the most. Our level of rear downforce is certainly one of the things that caused this weakness, because the more downforce you have the better everything is in F1. But we are also getting too much wheelspin in the slow bits and we cook the rear tyres and then lose performance.

It's a weakness of our car that we have been aware of since the beginning of the season and we have to work hard to understand what is happening and improve. Our technical director Geoff Willis is already ahead on this point, and for Silverstone we should have some upgrades that we didn't get on the car in time for Valencia. I'm sure that we will make some progress in this area in the near future.

Rear-end grip was a problem for Tonio Liuzzi all weekend © Sutton Images

In qualifying we were ahead of Jerome d'Ambrosio's Virgin, which was positive, but we could have been faster as I had a problem with the DRS that cost us about 0.4 seconds in lap time. The track certainly suited the Virgins better than us and that's another reason why we were not as competitive as we were in Montreal two weeks earlier.

We know that we will be fighting with Virgin for the rest of the championship and we are expecting updates on the car for all the remaining races to help us beat them. We are going to put the car in the Mercedes windtunnel in Brackley in mid-July and that should give us a much better understanding of a lot of the car's weaknesses. It will also help us to speed up the development quite a bit so we should continue to improve with every update. In a couple of weeks we will start work on the 2012 car as well, but 2011 is not a season to forget and a lot of the ideas we bring to the car this year we will also use next year.

As I've said many times before, our target is still to finish tenth in the championship. Even though Lotus seems quite a long way ahead at the moment, we've achieved the same result as them on the track [13th] and it's possible to finish even higher in the right circumstances. The season is still long and there are plenty of opportunities to get good results as long as we continue to work hard.

One of the main talking points in the paddock at the moment is the off-throttle blown diffuser, which the FIA will put a restriction on at the British Grand Prix. In some ways I think that will help us because most of the other teams are gaining a bigger benefit from it at the moment. We have ours working, and it gives us a little advantage, but we believe we haven't optimised the way it works yet. I reckon the teams that have been using it since the start of the season will experience a much bigger backwards step.

It wasn't all hard work in Valencia... © Sutton Images
The FIA changing the rules in the middle of the season is a little bit weird, but at the end of the day they run the game. For a small team like us it would be better if we didn't waste time and money chasing a project only to have it banned, but I'm sure that the FIA have got a good reason and we accept their decision. We just hope that in the future these decisions won't be as expensive for small teams.

Looking at British Grand Prix more generally, we are preparing ourselves for a challenging race. It will be difficult for us because Silverstone is a high-downforce circuit and we know downforce is an area where we are weak. It's also very challenging for the tyres because of the high-speed corners, and I think we will see a really interesting race because there will be high wear rates, especially at the rear.

In terms of overtaking and pit stop strategies Valencia was a bit of a boring race, but I don't think that will be the case at Silverstone. Last year we saw a really interesting race on the new circuit layout and this year I think it will be even better with the tyres and the DRS. I think we will see much more overtaking and much more craziness!