- Tonio Liuzzi's ESPNF1 column
'My position at the team is still clear'Tonio Liuzzi November 29, 2011
Brazil was a strong race up until my alternator failed and forced me to retire ten laps from the end. In qualifying we were strong and we outperformed the Virgins, confirming the step forward we have made in optimising our package at recent races.
It's been a difficult year for us because the car has been very numb to changes we've made and it's been a real effort to make strides forward. However, we've worked hard together to get a better understanding of the tyres and the camber settings, and all these things found us a lot of time despite the lack of aero updates compared to our rivals. We closed the gap to Virgin and Lotus simply by working with what we had available to us and that's something to be proud of.
Unfortunately my car kicked into anti-stall mode at the start of the race, but I had a great first lap and managed to make the positions back by the time I started lap two. The Virgins were a little bit faster in the middle stint because we were suffering with overheating rear tyres again and that meant we dropped oof the pace after the first stint. But overall it was a really good job by the team and we have shown in recent races that we are working better and better, which puts us in good shape heading into 2012.
Looking back on 2011 I would rate my season at 9/10. If you think back to the first race, when the car wasn't quick enough to qualify, we've come an awful long way, and compared to Virgin - a team with a similar budget - we have made some decent gains. We've had a few occasions where I've had problems with the car and that has limited my pace on paper, but at almost every race I think I've achieved the maximum with the car I was given and I've helped the team grow. It wasn't a completely faultless year, but we challenged Lotus for tenth in the constructors' with my 13th place finish in Canada and that's something to be proud of because their car was quite a bit faster right from the start.
There have been rumours about what will happen next year, but since the start of the season I've always said my position at the team is clear and I think it's still clear. To be honest I haven't really spoken to the team about 2012 because there isn't much to talk about. I have a contract for next year and, although there can always be changes in Formula One, I'm pretty confident that everything will stay the same. Since I joined HRT we've had a long-term programme because you cannot make a fast car in one year - it takes time to understand it and improve it. I think we've done a really good job this year and we've set a good basis for next year.
Signing Pedro de la Rosa is a normal step for a Spanish team as they wanted to have a Spanish link, but of course he's also really experienced and coming from a very strong team in McLaren. Hopefully he can bring a lot of information and I'm sure his experience will help in developing the car. Our new owners are really keen to develop and bring this team forward so I think Pedro and I could be a really good team to develop the car. It will be a good combination between experience and speed and combined with Thesan's push, I think we will be able to show that next year.
The designs for the F112 have been released and everything is now underway. The tub is not yet ready, but we are further down the road than we were this time last year and we believe we should be ready for the first test - that's what the team wants to achieve.
We believe we will make a huge step forward, but whether that sees us move up the grid will depend on the size of the step the teams around us make. Two bonuses are that the blown diffuser will be taken away from our competitors and we will have KERS, so that will already be a big advantage to move us forward relative to the midfield teams. All the early indications from the new car suggest it has a lot more downforce, but I always say that a car is like a cake - you never know how it tastes until you eat it! We have to wait until February to drive the car for the first time and know what it's like for sure, but the aim is to close the gap to the midfield cars.