- Tonio Liuzzi's ESPNF1 column
'Virgin is getting stronger and we cannot step back'Tonio Liuzzi August 30, 2011
Overall we were happy with the way the weekend went. On Friday we had good pace in the mixed conditions and on Saturday morning as well our pace was OK. We followed the development of the track in terms of balance and understanding the little aerodynamic upgrades that we had. We need to push even harder because our closest rival Virgin is getting stronger and we cannot step back - we need to keep racing them to the end of the season.
In qualifying it was just a shame that I made a mistake in the last corner when I braked too late for the amount of grip in the damp conditions and we lost 0.7 or 0.8 seconds of lap time. Overall my pace was really good and maybe we could have been up another position on the grid without the error, which would have turned into two positions once Pastor Maldonado was given his penalty. Never mind.
On race day I was on the dirty side of the grid and poor grip meant I got quite a slow getaway. I then concentrated on the exit of La Source and had a really strong run up to Les Combes to get up to 16th place. At that point I tried to overtake my team-mate Daniel Ricciardo on the outside but found a slow car in the middle of the chicane and couldn't finish my manoeuvre.
After five or six laps we started suffering massively with understeer due to graining front tyres and our pace started to drop off in the second part of our first stint. That dropped us off the Virgins and Daniel, but I wasn't too worried because I knew we could adjust the aero balance in the pit stops and I know that Spa-Francorchamps is always a long race.
So we closed up on the Virgins but then in the second and third stint they had a stronger pace on the harder tyres because we were struggling to put temperature into the compound, and that accounted for a lot of the time we lost in the third part of the race. Getting more temperature in the tyres is a problem we need to solve and it is ultimately related to our biggest issue - downforce. Getting heat into the tyres is very difficult if you are missing downforce and that comes down to the aerodynamics of the car, which is what we look to improve with every update.
The other talking point was camber settings for the top teams and the affect that had on tyre blistering. There's been a lot of talk about Red Bull's set-up but I think, at the end of the day, they won the race and to win you have to be doing something right. For sure you listen to the advice, but you also trust the people working in your team and that's important for success. In the end the result proved that it was the right decision for them because they took maximum points.
Next up is my home race at Monza in two weeks time. We should have an interesting upgrade on the car but whether it translates into results will depend on what Lotus and Virgin do as well. The new parts should result in quite a significant step so hopefully everything will come in time for the race and work out of the box. It's really important to be at my best at Monza because I love to do well in front of my crowd. This year it won't be easy, but you can be sure I will try my very best because being at your home race is always something special.
The Monza circuit doesn't have many corners but the few it does have are crucial to give you the speed down the straights. I've raced there lots of times before and know it pretty well, but the biggest advantage for me is being in front of my home fans.