Tonio Liuzzi 'still tied' to HRT
Tonio Liuzzi says that he is "still tied to HRT" but admits the situation within the team is "very vague" and that he doesn't know if he will drive for it in 2012.
Liuzzi joined HRT at the start of the 2011 season having been released by Force India. Despite failing to qualify for the first race the team still managed to recover to beat Virgin to 11th in the constructors' championship, and during the year HRT was bought by Spanish investment group Thesan Capital. The change of ownership has seen the team relocate to Valencia and Colin Kolles depart as team principal, while Pedro de la Rosa has been brought in as one of the race drivers.
However, Liuzzi says that both he and de la Rosa are only on "standby" until the team can gain enough sponsorship to retain them, with pay drivers a potential option.
"When I decided to sign for this team, there was a different ownership, Carabantes', who had a different project to Thesan Capital, who is more nationalistic," Liuzzi told 422race.com. "Their project is a Spanish one, to get Spanish sponsors, which is changing the drivers' management as well. At the moment everything is very vague. The main problem is that the team have no budget, so they are evaluating the way to get the money to have two drivers.
"I'm still tied to HRT, because I have a deal for two more years, but everything is still to be defined, because they are looking for sponsors. For sure they would like to keep both me and Pedro [de la Rosa] but we are still in standby. I'm not judging, I'm very realistic. I understand the situation inside the team and, at the moment, we're trying to solve the situation as soon as possible because the championship is close."
Despite the uncertainty, Liuzzi said that he had been working on the new car with the team and that he expected it to be ready for the first test in Jerez.
"I'm fully part of the project at the moment, because I'm still a team driver. I'm aware that things may change any minute, as it can change in all other teams. Currently, the deals are worth very little, because a young driver with money can always come and buy the seat. That's how it works.
"I'm completely part of the development programme. The new car is going on and should be ready for the first test in Valencia (sic). We are confident that we should do a big step forward. For sure we will still have a long way to go, because the 2012 car won't be in the points, but will be much better than in 2011." Liuzzi also admitted that he was exploring other options in case he was to lose his seat late on, but said he expected to still be involved with the project at HRT.
"We are evaluating because it's a decision to make. For sure when the situation changes at the last minute it isn't easy to find places in top teams. Now I'm sure I will stay involved with HRT, but we will see. Things may change before the start of testing."