Tonio Liuzzi has been the sensation of the Italian Grand Prix weekend so far. While all the attention before the race was focused on his compatriot Giancarlo Fisichella's move from Force India to Ferrari, Liuzzi quietly stepped into the vacant Force India and outperformed the now scarlet-clad Fisichella.
Promising practice times for Liuzzi were followed by an excellent, career-best, seventh on the grid, and his performance became even more impressive when the fuel load sheets revealed that the Italian was running significantly heavier than his front row team-mate Adrian Sutil.
After qualifying Liuzzi gave AUTOSPORT the inside line on his spectacular return to the Formula 1 field.
Q. Were you surprised at how quickly you adapted to the car and got up to speed?
Vitantonio Liuzzi: I'm not surprised. At the beginning of the weekend it could have gone two ways. One, to learn and get used to the car pretty quickly or the other to struggle. Fortunately, it went in the first direction.
The approach that I took to this weekend was pretty good, not to push from the beginning as hard as I could to get as high up the timesheets on Friday. I wanted to learn the tyres, the car and to slowly, lap by lap, improve myself. And there is still a lot more to come so I'm really optimistic about the race and the future.
Q. Was it easy to build your confidence in the car despite having little experience of the tyres and the 2009-specification aerodynamics?
VL: This was a little bit tougher than I expected. The downforce level is different and takes time to get used to - you have to change your driving style a little. Fortunately, Force India has given me a really good car as we saw with Adrian Sutil on the first row and Giancarlo Fisichella at Spa two weeks ago. So to have a competitive car has helped me a lot and the team supported me 100 per cent from the beginning.
Q. In Q2, the first lap of your final run was not good enough for the top 10. How difficult was it doing the time on the second flying lap?
VL: I realised that I wasn't pushing enough. It's not easy after 18 months of not being in this mental situation. When I realised what I needed to do I had to get my concentration together and pull it out. And it worked. We had a good lap. I also had a bit of traffic on the laps before. I was hoping that I wouldn't suffer in the pressure of qualifying and fortunately it worked out well.
Q. You've been out of F1 racing for two years, and it's very easy for people to forget about you. How does it feel to have reminded everyone how quick you are?
VL: It's great to see the fans, the people that are supporting me this weekend. The team has been great as well. It has been beautiful to see that people wanted me back. This for sure gave me a special motivation to do well.
Q. What are your expectations for the race?
VL: We have a competitive car so we can fight for points. Adrian is in a good position to get really good points. I hope to finish the race as well as possible, not to make any mistakes because it's not easy after this time. I will do my best to bring some points back home for Force India.
Q. Is the possibility of a wet race a concern?
VL: I'm not scared about the wet. I've always liked wet conditions and it doesn't worry me. But it would be better to have a dry race for the spectators.
Q. We've seen some other drivers come in mid-season and struggle to adapt to 2009 cars with no testing. Did that concern you and how pleased are you to have adapted so well?
VL: A lot depends on how you approach the weekend. In myself I grew the hunger to race because after 18 months without racing in F1 killed me a lot inside. The hunger of racing and the aim to do well pushed me a lot. I built through the weekend, I thought about how to make it work, and maybe it was a bit different. I didn't want to rush and I took it step by step.