This may be a more contemporary pop reference than I’m usually known for, but Beverley Knight’s 2002 ditty Shoulda Woulda Coulda sprang to mind when Force India confirmed today that which has been known for several weeks: Paul di Resta is to drive for the team in 2011 and Vitantonio Liuzzi is to depart.
Those paddock scribes who are close to Liuzzi’s manager, Peter Collins, have been gnashing their teeth and wailing about the move for some time. They point out that he has been loyal, that he has never openly criticised the team, and that there are compelling reasons for what others view as his underperformance.
Trouble is, of course, you could construct identical arguments for dozens of drivers throughout history – those poor souls who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Quite a few of them drove for Ferrari. Liuzzi has now struck out twice from semi-decent F1 teams, and although those departures owe much to the attention-deficit management style of Helmut Marko in the first instance and the curious neophilia of Vijay Mallya in the second, the fact remains that Liuzzi has spent several seasons in F1 conspicuously failing to impress the people who matter – the people who actually make the decisions rather than those who merely analyse them from the sidelines.
Although it’s always disappointing to see a promising talent squandered by muddled team management and mediocre cars, the fact is that Formula 1 is an up-or-out business unless the troughs in your performance trajectory are smoothed by voluminous quantities of outside finance (although this usually cast iron proposition may be tested by Pastor Maldonado in 2011). Tonio Liuzzi won’t be the first driver to leave F1 with only a litany of regreats, missed opportunities and well-worn excuses to look back on, and he won’t be the last.