Force India promoted its test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi to the race seat, thus filling the void created by another Italian Giancarlo Fisichella’s switch to Ferrari.
After nearly two years of test driving, Liuzzi was named the second race driver and the Italian will assume driving duties of car number 21 from next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
“I’m delighted to give Tonio the opportunity to get back into a race seat, which I know he has been itching to do for the past two years,” Force India chairman Vijay Mallya said.
“Force India is now in a very competitive position and we need a driver who can continue this momentum. This will be the chance for Tonio to demonstrate to both the team and the field that he has the commitment, speed and professionalism to perform and I am sure he will seize this opportunity,” said Mallya, also the team principal.
The 28-year-old Liuzzi, a former Red Bull and Toro Rosso driver, has fulfilled Force India’s crucial test, reserve driver and development roles from the start of the 2008 season.
Itching to be back racing again, Liuzzi said he was looking to get more points after Fisichella, in his last race for Force India in Belgium, had broken the duck.
“I cannot wait to get back into the car in race trim, particularly at my home Grand Prix in Monza. I really appreciate the opportunity Vijay has given me, particularly now Force India now has a great car that’s performing very well,” an elated Liuzzi said.
“I am confident I can carry on our progress. I’m very motivated; I’m in good shape and hungry to get some more points on the board. Although it’s unfortunate that this came about as a direct result of Felipe’s accident, this is my opportunity to show people what I can do and I’m really looking forward to it,” said the Italian.
Felipe Massa’s near-fatal crash in Hungary forced Ferrari to promote test driver Luca Badoer but the youngster struggled so much that he was being ridiculed as ‘Look How Bad You Are’
Realising Badoer’s limitation, Ferrari made an offer to Fisichella, who convinced Mallya to release him even though he was contracted to run the last five races of the season for the Silverstone-based outfit.
Liuzzi’s last F1 race was the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix with Toro Rosso. To date he has contested 39 Grands Prix, with a career-best result of sixth coming in the rain-lashed 2007 Chinese Grand Prix.