- Tonio Liuzzi's Cockpit View - Malaysian Grand Prix
'We are probably just a bit behind Renault'
- Malaysian Grand Prix
- FIA Formula One World Championship
- Tonio Liuzzi
- Force India
ESPNF1 columnist Tonio Liuzzi reflects on last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, moving mirrors and comparisons with his Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil.
Retiring from a race is always disappointing but there were plenty of positives to be drawn from the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. We hit our target of getting through to Q3 and we showed some good race pace, so it was just really bad luck that we had an electronic failure with the throttle and were forced to retire.
If everything had gone as to plan, we were aiming to finish right behind my team-mate Adrian Sutil in sixth place. It's a shame because it would have been a really good and close race with Lewis Hamilton but it didn't happen in the end. I was fighting Nico Hulkenberg's Williams before I retired, and although I had lost a little bit of time behind him, we were confident we'd get past. I was trying to control the wear of the rear tyres so I was holding back a bit to make sure I didn't ruin our strategy. We were very close to our scheduled pit stop, so we were waiting to put in some fast laps on fresh tyres while he continued to struggle on track but sadly it wasn't to be.
Finding the balance between attacking and controlling the tyres is very important this year. Since Australia we have been running an adjustable front wing and that has definitely helped us in that area. The rear tyres get the most degradation but you can ease that by changing the balance of the car with the adjustable front flap. Also, when you are trying to push hard you need to have a strong front end, so being able to add extra front downforce from the cockpit of the car is a big bonus.
The more the driver can do himself the better, and that is why we have started to work on an F-duct system like McLaren's. It could be worth a lot of time, and for sure nearly all the other teams are doing the same thing, so we don't want to be left behind. It's a great idea, very innovative, but it's also hard to get right, so I don't know yet when we will apply it to our car. We will definitely be looking closely at it over the next few races.
A change we will be forced to make to the car by Spain is the positioning of the wing mirrors, which the FIA says will have to be mounted by the cockpit rather than ahead of the sidepods like on our car. We've done some studies on the aerodynamic side and for us we can't see any serious downside to moving them closer to the driver. We are quite confident that it will affect some other teams though, because in the past there has been a significant gain in putting them out there on certain cars. But like I said, we are confident and it's possible we will have changed them even for the next race in Shanghai.
I think it's a good decision overall because in qualifying this year the traffic is becoming more of a problem. Sometimes it is pretty difficult to see a car behind you, because the vibrations are quite high and that makes it difficult to see clearly when the mirrors are mounted out wide like that. By bringing them closer to the cockpit you will reduce that vibration and that has to be a good thing when there are 24 F1 cars all on track at once. In Bahrain and Australia my qualifying was ruined because I hit traffic, so I know exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end of the problem.
It's been unfortunate for me because that is the main reason I was behind my team-mate Adrian in qualifying at those two races. But being out qualified by him is not a huge worry, because if you look at our lap times throughout all the sessions of a grand prix weekend we are pretty close, I've just been unlucky. In the wet Q3 session in Malaysia it was a bit different because I made a mistake in tricky conditions. I locked a front wheel in one of the corners and that was it because I'd lost my chance when the track was at its best. So I've qualified behind Adrian three times but, like I said, I'm not worried about it because I've always been a strong qualifier, it's never been a problem in the past and it's not now.
We also have Paul di Resta working with the team on Fridays at grands prix now, in order to make sure he is race ready in case anything happens to me or Adrian. Last year I experienced how difficult it is to get enough time in the car if you are not racing, so I think it's a good thing and it's a decision we made with our boss. It's not a problem for me and Adrian to lose out on cockpit time, as it is always the first session on a Friday when the track is pretty green and the work is about acclimatising with the track rather than trying to go fast.
Right now I'm back in Europe working in the simulator this week to prepare for the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks' time. This weekend I will fly to Bangkok for training before going north to Shanghai. I think Force India can expect a good race there, but we are probably just a bit behind Renault at the moment because they made quite a few developments to their car in Australia and Malaysia. So with a perfect weekend I think we can be really close to them and our target is still to beat them in the championship. That's going to be a big task but we're working really hard to bring some updates to the car and steal back the advantage.