Vitantonio Liuzzi is at a critical stage of his F1 career. At the age of 28, his second F1 coming with Force India has been like his first, inconsistent and not living up to expectation. The Italian was a potential star from his karting days, winning the national and world championships. Like many other drivers in the past he won the F3000 title for Arden with backing from Red Bull. His opportunity in F1 came in 2005. He shared a Red Bull seat with Christian Klien and had an impressive start, scoring in his debut race at Imola. He got 4 races that season and then moved into the new Toro Rosso team, the Red Bull B team. This gave him the chance to get a full season under his belt and try to impress enough to have another go with the Red Bull team. He only managed 1 point in an uncompetitive car and was unable to make the leap up as Red Bull replaced Klien with Mark Webber. Another campaign in 2007 seen Liuzzi again struggle but also make several mistakes, overdriving the car as well as missing out on potential points in Canada with a visit to the wall of champions. By the end of the season Sebastian Vettel was on the scene and made a big impression. Liuzzi's stock was falling and he found himself out of a drive in 2008.
The 2008 season seen the emergence of Force India and Liuzzi was able to get the test driver role. It kept himself in the sport, albeit on the fringes. As the 2009 season unfolded, it was widely expected that the Italian would replace fellow countryman Giancarlo Fisichella in 2010. The opportunity would pop up for him though earlier than expected after Fisichella filled in for Felipe Massa after the Brazilian's accident in Hungary. He ran competitively at his home race before transmission failure. No points were to come but 2010 was the big test. Two solid races brought points in March but it's been a struggle since with a couple of shock Q1 exits whilst team mate Adrian Sutil has been a regular Q3 contender. Monaco was an impressive aside, outqualifying Sutil and scoring again but Turkey put the spotlight back on in a negative sense again, qualifying over a second slower than the German despite being the one running the F-Duct device which should have helped his straight line speed. The team believe a damaged chassis may have had an effect on his performance and like Vettel and Michael Schumacher this season, he will have a new one for the Canadian Grand Prix.
Image courtesy of www.forceindiaf1.com
The problem for Liuzzi is that there is a man waiting in the wings for a F1 chance. Paul Di Resta from Scotland is the Force India reserve driver and races for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM series. He has a few outings in free practice this season and shown good speed. With Mercedes backing, Vijay Mallya could be pushed to give Di Resta an opportunity should Liuzzi continue to underperform. I feel that he will continue to back Liuzzi for now, he has invested a lot of time in the Italian and has a good relationship with him, though this was slightly strained in Istanbul. Di Resta won't be doing any running this weekend (though he'll be on BBC Radio Five Live on Saturday and Sunday) but if he gets more Friday opportunities and makes a good impression then he could have a chance. The technical staff at Force India will be able to analyse his data and this will help aid any decisions. The last 3 races of the season are sandwiched between the last 2 rounds of the DTM season so if Liuzzi continues to struggle it could be a chance for Di Resta to get a few races. I think the Italian is safe for now and Canada could be a race where incidents and circumstances allow him to bag some points provided he can do a clean race. This should at least build his confidence. He's fell out of F1 once. Falling out again and it'll most likely be curtains for his F1 career.