Italian racing driver Vitantonio “Tonio” Liuzzi celebrates his 30th birthday today. Having formerly driven for Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India, he currently drives for Hispania racing. He also writes a column for ESPN.
He began karting aged nine, and in 1993 won the Italian Karting Championship. In 1995 he came second in the Karting World Championship, but only fifth in the European Championship. In 2001, aged 20, he won the Karting World Championship. He made a late move to German Formula Renault that year – most people start younger – and finished second, so he moved on the German Formula Three for 2002 when he finished 9th.
In 2003, he became a Red Bull driver and competed in International Formula 3000. He finished fourth. The next year he continued in the series, driving for Arden International. He won that year, taking seven wins in ten races, and all-but-one pole. The move to F1 was secure.
Red Bull took over Jaguar and brought in Christian Horner from Arden to manage the team. Christian Klien and David Coulthard were the main drivers, but Christian put Tonio in the car for a few races mid-season. Tonio finished 8th in his first race, scoring points on his debut.
The next year, he drove for the new Toro Rosso team and again scored a single point. The next year he picked up three points. But then he left the team, dropped in place of Sebastien Bourdais. So he became a Force India test driver for 2009, and meanwhile took part in a couple of A1GP races and the Speedcar Series in which he came third behind Johnny Herbert but ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jean Alesi, Thomas Biagi, Jaques Villeneuve and others.
His 2009 season began with him as a Force India test driver. But after Felipe Massa’s accident at Hungary, main Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella moved over to Ferrari and Tonio got another chance. He didn’t score any points at the end of that season.
In 2010, Tonio had his best F1 season so far. He finished 15th scoring 21 points. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to provide much of a challenge to teammate Adrian Sutil. With Paul di Resta’s DTM championship win, Tonio didn’t really stand a chance although he held on for as long as he could.
When the opportunity came up at Hispania, Tonio wasn’t going to say no. He has helped to develop the car, and his 13th-place finish in Canada means the team will probably finish 11th again. Plus he is only just behind Jarno Trulli in the championship. Recently, he’s gained Daniel Ricciardo as a teammate. This should hopefully provide him with a good challenge.
Also on the cards, Tonio will be taking part in the Australian V8 championship at their Surfers Paradise round where the regulars drive with international drivers. I don’t think a current F1 driver has ever done this before, although quite a few IndyCar drivers will be taking part.