• Tonio Liuzzi's ESPNF1 column

'It was like being in a mini asteroid shower'

Tonio Liuzzi April 12, 2011

Tonio Liuzzi looks back at his Malaysian Grand Prix weekend and explains why there is more to come from HRT

Tonio Liuzzi: "After an investigation we found out that the root of the problem was a broken screw in the moveable rear wing" © Sutton Images
Right from the beginning of the race we knew we had to treat Sunday afternoon as a test. For us the Malaysian Grand Prix was a bit like turning up at the first test at Valencia in February, only we were a couple of months late.

We knew we had to get some mileage on the car, to assess its reliability and learn stuff for the future to make it better. To be honest we were quite surprised by how strong the reliability of the car was; for sure we didn't make the end of the race, but it was pretty close.

With ten laps to go we had an issue with the rear wing, which basically collapsed. At first we couldn't understand what it was. From inside the cockpit I could tell the car had lost a lot of downforce at the rear, but it was not an obvious failure to see during a pit stop so the team sent me back out. Then we realised the loss of downforce was really quite big and we decided that it was not worth the risk of carrying on. The car was very difficult to drive and it could have been dangerous for me and the other cars around me - it became a safety issue.

After an investigation we found out that the root of the problem was a broken screw in the moveable rear wing, which basically meant the mounting had collapsed. The good news is that it was just a small problem and can be easily fixed for the next race. As I said, the race was like testing for us and that's why we are discovering these little issues, but they are normal for the first miles of a new Formula One car.

Looking back to the start, I actually got a very good getaway and passed two or three cars early in the lap. I was pretty impressed because it was basically the first time we'd tried a start with the car and it was very quick. I had a much better start compared to Lotus and Virgin, but then I had a little contact out of turn nine with one of the Virgins and gave back the positions I had gained. I wanted to race and try to compete with them but I held back as I knew they had a better pace and for me it was more important to finish the race than risk an accident. I concentrated on putting all the laps together, pushing hard, but not making mistakes and achieving all the laps possible.

Tonio Liuzzi lost out in turn nine after a good start © Sutton Images
It was also the first time we have run the car with a full tank of fuel on board. We didn't run high fuel in Australia and we had to focus on balance on Friday and Saturday in Malaysia, so it was a bit of an unknown. I had some oversteer in the first stint but we corrected the balance with front wing adjustments in the pit stops and everything was going quite well until the wing problem. Sure we were slower than our direct competitors, but for our first race it was not a bad pace.

One thing I did notice while being lapped was that the marbles [chunks of rubber which come off the tyre] are quite a big issue this season. When you go offline to let faster cars past you pick them up on the tyres and the car becomes really undrivable for about one or two laps. I think that is something to work on for the future, because every time you let someone past you lose a lot of pace and stability in the car.

Sometimes being behind another car was like being in a mini asteroid shower because there were a lot of pieces of rubber flying up and hitting me. They were hitting my chest and my visor and you see them coming at you from quite a distance because they are pretty big. But it's not really a safety issue, it's more of an observation. It was the same at Montreal last year, where we had lots of marbles from the Bridgestone tyres, and that was one of the best races of the year. I think Pirelli are doing a good job providing a better show, so we need to make sure we don't lose that. We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the future.

Tonio Liuzzi's is confident HRT can improve this season © Sutton Images
Focusing on Hispania again, there is no hiding from the fact that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We need to tune a lot of areas, we need to develop a lot of areas - the weakest part is the rear end where we have a lack of traction. It's a mix of getting the best from the tyres and improving the aerodynamics; we need a better understanding of the mechanical side of the car, but of course the lack of downforce is always an issue because you can never have too much.

On the plus side I think the balance of the car is not too bad, the engine is working really well and we have some other good points. There is potential, we just need to accumulate mileage and understand which way we need to go for the future. We have some little updates for the next race in China but most of the new parts are for Turkey, so for sure we can keep closing the gap to our competitors.

I was 0.5 seconds off Jerome d'Ambrosio's Virgin in qualifying and I think that is a true reflection of our form at the moment. I think maybe we could have gone a few tenths faster, but we are pretty happy about where we were in qualifying and we showed that we have a good chance to close the gap soon.