VITANTONIO LIUZZI INTERVIEW
Alpinestars caught up with former Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Force India and HRT Formula One driver Vitantonio Liuzzi as he embarks on a new and exciting chapter in his distinguished career when he joins Honda for the Japanese Super GT and Super Formula season …
Q. What have you been up to these last couple of years?
After I stepped down from Formula One in 2011 I took different roads. I still kept myself linked to F1 as a test driver, but I found it difficult to stand on the sidelines and watch races. So I kept myself busy by doing a few races in the WEC series, competing in LMP2 with Lotus, and then a series I really enjoyed, Superstars (saloon cars), where I raced with Mercedes and against good names like Mika Salo, Johnny Herbert and other ex-F1 drivers. Now this season I have a new adventure in Japan with Honda where I will compete in the Super GT and Super Formula series.
Q. You’ve raced there before: do you have fond memories of Japan?
I love Japan. I love the culture, the cities and the emphasis on technology. I used to go there when I was 15 years old with karting, and I won a world cup in Suzuka in 1999. I love the passion that the people put into motorsports; the races have so many spectators: 80 to 90,000. This is why I think it will be an interesting season for me.
Q. It will be good to race in Suzuka again?
Japanese tracks are really amazing. Suzuka obviously is one of the best tracks in the world, but there are other great circuits with so much history: Motegi, Fuji and Okayama. The design of a Japanese circuit is very different to that of a European track, so it will not be an easy challenge.
Q. You have a track record of going into new series and quickly producing fast times. How do you feel about this Japan challenge?
Super Formula is the closest thing you can get to Formula One: the cars have so much grip and they are fast. They are about 450 kilos heavier than an F1 car and they go about 12 of 15 seconds slower. What is particularly impressive is the tire effort. There is so much competition between the manufacturers: Michelin, Yokohama, Bridgestone and Dunlop, that every time they come to the circuit they bring so many new compounds - the grip is just incredible.
Q. Are you prepared, physically, for the new challenge?
Yes, I’m prepared but it will be a challenge driving in two series.
Q. And you will be driving with Kosuke Matsuura as your new team-mate …
I’m really looking forward to working with Kosuke. He is a tough character; I’ve always had lots of respect for him. We had one season in 2003 when we raced together in Formula 3, so I hope this season will be interesting for us. We want to win! Honda is working hard and doing a great job on the new cars.
Q. It’s great to have two long-time Alpinestars athletes in the same team … speaking of race suit development, etc, you were here recently speaking to our product department so what can we expect?
I have been deeply impressed with the technical development going on at Alpinestars. Every year there are new developments and I’m really looking forward to the first test. This is why I’ve been working with Alpinestars for so long; I really feel part of a family.