Trouble ahead for Force India

Multiple sources are confidently predicting that the Force India Formula 1 team will shortly announce that Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta will be its race drivers for 2011, with Nico Hulkenberg as the reserve driver.

This is a very stupid move as it will, in effect, destroy the F1 career of Tonio Liuzzi. One can argue about Liuzzi’s ultimate talent, but there is no argument that he has done a decent job for the team, has always been loyal, never criticised the team openly and was a committed team member for three years, being happy to act as test driver in order to earn his place in one of the racing cars. None other than Fernando Alonso has said on the record that Liuzzi is “a major talent” and the drivers as a group are unlikely to ignore the plight of their colleague as this could open the way for contracts to be ignored throughout the F1 world – and that is obviously not something they want to see.

No doubt once the announcement is made Force India will go on to the offensive and claim that Liuzzi did not do a good job for them in 2010, but given what has been said before in public announcements this will carry little weight as team members have admitted that the team was to blame for some of his misfortunes in 2010 and there is no doubting that when the car was working properly Liuzzi delivered, notably in Montreal where he qualified sixth on the grid. There are also some ex-employees of the team who might be willing to step forward in support of the Italian.

If the announcement goes ahead then Mallya and his assistants must face whatever response Liuzzi cares to embark upon. Clearly the Indian billionaire does not care much about money, nor about contracts, and seems to be happy to be relying on the fact that Liuzzi can take legal action against him and that will take time to sort out, by which time all that the driver can hope for is a financial settlement, as his career will be ruined by then. Liuzzi could try to claim damages from Mallya, but finding a suitable figure for the damage that will be done is not going to be easy.

Liuzzi and his advisors would be forgiven for thinking that the only way that they are going to get satisfaction is if they decide to take action that will damage Mallya’s reputation or dent his (considerable) ego. There is thus much incentive for the Italian to go in hard, in a very public way, and concentrate on making sure that people in Formula 1 and in India know that Mallya is not a man with whom it is sensible to do business.

Mallya likes to think of himself as the posterboy of Indian business but his reputation has taken a serious knock in the last 12 months as the result of two damning judgements against him in the High Court in London.

It remains to be seen what happens next. The first stage of action would be for Liuzzi to complain to the FIA Contract Recognition Board. This is a lengthy and expensive business for the driver, even if he knows that one day a court will rule in his favour and force the Indian to pay his legal bills. If the Contract Recognition Board rules in Liuzzi’s favour, Mallya is contracted – to Liuzzi, to the other teams, the FIA and the Formula One group, to respect that judgement.

A parallel course of action, which might be more effective, would be to apply for an injunction to stop Force India racing in Bahrain, as Liuzzi has a legal right to be in one of the cars.

135 thoughts on “Trouble ahead for Force India

  1. “the drivers as a group are unlikely to ignore the plight of their colleague as this could open the way for contracts to be ignored throughout the F1 world – and that is obviously not something they want to see.”

    Joe, what did the drivers do for Kimi Raikkonen when Ferrari bought him out of his contract in a way that effectively kept him out of the sport for an entire year, and has since pretty much ended his career in Formula 1? I didn’t see the other drivers flocking to support him then, so why are they suddenly going to do it for Liuzzi?

    1. I doubt they will, but they may feel unsettled. Raikkonen settled and, by all accounts, was not averse to leaving F1…

  2. Toys.

    Pity that this is Formula 1 where the best is seen as a minimum job requirement.

    Pity that the “major talent” comment came from the same driver who claimed that 42-year-old Michael Schumacher in an ex-Honda team would be the “main threat” in 2011.

    Liuzzi should have been gone at the end of 2007. His F1 career has been on life-support since. Time to go to AutoGP.


  3. Good Lord Joe,
    What a bile filled post you’ve just submitted.
    Sure, Liuzzi is a talented driver.
    But he’s now had two decent bites at Formula One and has yet to prove anything other than either a) Lazy or b) Unlucky c) A combination of both.
    Drivers get sacked from F1 all the time, why are you especially angry about this one?
    There are other drivers who deserve to be in F1 far more than Liuzzi, and I’m thinking Hulkenberg and Heidfeld here.
    I think F1 should bring in new talent, and Paul di Resta more than deserves a chance.
    No one ever said F1 was nice.

    1. Simon Benedict,

      It is not about Liuzzi. It is about morality. I believe that F1 should be run in an ethical manner. If you think that it is better to live like animals and stab one another in the back whenever and wherever you choose then that is up to you. Maybe that is a world that you want. I don’t and I am willing to stand up and say it. F1 is not nice, but it would probably be better off it there were fewer unethical people involved and could attract the big family-oriented money.

  4. Liuzzi has a contract.

    I think Hispania are hoping FI cash and Liuzzi may be coming their way, or FI will find themselves in court again … How many actions have FI lost lately, 3 is it?

  5. Joe, it is very clear that your affection and admiration of Tonio Liuzzi has affected your ability to see that this is a pretty straightforward business deal.

    1. Kalim,

      Your opinion is utter garbage. This is not about Liuzzi. It is about ethics. If you think this is straightforward business then you live in a world full of robbers and crooks. Why not try to aspire to something better rather than accepting that life is about scrabbling around with the rats in the gutter?

  6. Hi Joe,
    Thanks for the reply, always appreciated.
    I’d love to live in a world free from back stabbing, where a man’s word is his bond etc.
    But lets face it, F1 is dog-eat-dog from the top down. Bernie Ecclestone hardly got where he is without screwing over a lot of people on the way.
    You’ve attended hundreds of races and must have seen broken deals and dreams by the busload, which is why I’m surprised this news has angered you so much.
    Yes, Liuzzi is facing an injustice of sorts. Then again, I think most drivers who get axed could say the same thing.
    Liuzzi just hasn’t delivered. And it’s not like they’re firing him mid-season, they’re doing in before the season has started.
    Ultimately a team has the right to decide who its most highly paid employees should be. If they reckon that with a combination of support from Mercedes and raw talent di Resta is a better bet you can hardly blame them for putting him in the car.
    To my mind Liuzzi and his management would have to have been pretty naive not to see the writing on the wall last season when di Resta was doing all that Friday testing for Force India.
    And I think there are greater injustices out there.
    Had Sebastien Bourdais not had his car fail on the grid at Monza in 2008 things could have been very much different for him. He was starting fourth in a race his young team mate won in a Toro Rosso. As it was he was sacked the next year, never being able to show his undoubted promise.
    You recently wrote of the virtues of Tom Walkinshaw, but look at what he (and Benetton) did to Roberto Moreno’s career back in 1991.
    It’s a tough break for Liuzzi, but at least he had a fair crack at F1. There are many other drivers who never got anywhere near the chance he’s had.
    Personally, I’m just glad we’ve got another Brit in F1.
    Best Regards,

  7. Some good points again. There’s two people I feel sorry for in all of this. Liuzzi obviously – for all the rights and wrongs he has a contract allegedly (maybe we know – just covering my back here).

    But also Paul di Resta. He’s done his time doing as Mercedes have asked him to do and been patient as he can be. He may be brought into a team with rather less than open arms and anything other than destroying Sutil would see a possible cloud hanging over him. Not sure what choice he’s got though.

    All very unsatisfactory.

  8. Maybe Alonso blowing a bit of smoke up Luizzi’s ring to lubricate the way for him to become a mid-season replacement for a underperforming Massa?

    can you think of many other suitable candidates for the potnetially soon to be fired Massa?

    Luizza would probably sell his parents to drive for the Prancing Horse!

    p.s. I’m a Massa fan, but I can see the writing clearly on the wall!

  9. Joe, no-one is doubting that Liuzzi has talent to be in Formula 1. But you said it yourself – he’s done a “decent” job. When has a driver ever gotten by on just being “decent”? Force India obviously see something in Paul di Resta, and looking at di Resta’s track record, I’m very much inclined to agree with them. He might have driven for a Mercedes works or Mercedes-backed team every year since 2005, and Norbert Haug might be trying to get Mallya to pick him up for a year, but with a resume like di Resta’s, it’s not so much a case of influencing the driver line-up as it is an endorsement. I’m all for an ethical Formula 1, but until such time as we know the conditions of Liuzzi’s contract and the clauses that allow Force India to break them, then if I’m being perfectly obvious, suggesting that he has a legal claim to the seat, is bordering a little on the absurd.

    Don’t get me wrong – I get exactly where you’re coming from. You obviously see something in Liuzzi just as I see something in Vitaly Petrov. I’ve spent many an hour justifying Petrov’s existence, even when people have felt I’ve gone over the edge. I admire the fact that you can get passionate about the sport, but looking at Liuzzi critically, I’m having a hard time coming to any conclusion other than that he has the spark, but he never set the world ablaze.

  10. Unfortunately this is F1, contracts these days are worth next to nothing. What does suprise me is that Di Resta gets the nod over Hulkenburg (or even Heidfield for that matter), strange that one .. the might of mercedes obviously carries some clout.
    Liuzzi is an unfulfilled talent (in F1 anyway) but there have been many and will be many more.

    Its lesser formulae or one of the new teams next season.

  11. Contracts have never meant anything in F1, we all know that. If the team want a driver then they will find a way, there will always be a get out clause hidden somewhere, its always been the case. The Kimi example is a good one, no other driver said a thing, its F1. I would 100% rather see Di Resta driving over Liuzzi anyday, remember he beat Vettel who everyone raves about in the same team and car. Do you think Liuzzi would have managed that, No.

    Bring on Di Resta.

  12. Drivers as a group can’t really complain here…

    Remember Jenson’s dealings with Williams and BAR? What goes around comes around…

  13. Joe, it’s interesting to note that the latest news item on Force India’s website (albeit this was last updated in November) starts as follows, “There’s no question that Tonio Liuzzi had a lot of bad luck in 2010, and on several occasions he was the innocent victim of mistakes by others – notably in Montreal, where he had qualified a brilliant fifth. Nevertheless he put in some great races, including a memorable run to sixth in Korea, and in total he finished in the points on six occasions. We asked for his thoughts on the year.”

    From my perspective as an armchair viewer, I’ve never been that impressed with Luizzi’s racing talent, he may be fast but he’s not a driver I had ever associated with being able to convert this speed into the best race results possible. But he always seems to give 100%, so admire him for that reason if nothing else.

    We’ve been taking a feed of Force India’s videos for the past year on our site (SkiddPlayer) and one thing I’ve noticed (all too frequently) is how infatuated they are with Adrian Sutil – Sutil carries out 90% of the PR activities, fashion shows, behind-the-scenes interviews etc and is used to provide FI with credibility in their home country. Whether this is Sutil’s choice or FI I’m not sure, but clearly he delivers far more PR ROI than Luizzi, which is a sad indictment on the state of F1 these days, but a tangible one nonetheless.

    I’d rate both Di Resta and Hulkenberg above ‘Tonio in terms of producing results, so in that regard it makes sense, but I’d prefer to see Luizzi retained and Sutil bumped since ‘Tonio (as you’ve already said) brings plenty of experience and the kind of technical feedback that FI dearly need.

  14. And on Raikkonen, Ferrari paid some obscene number of millions to buy him out of his contract.

    Any contract can be modified or terminated with perfect legality and morality, as long as the parties involved agree to the new arrangement. So Ferrari offered millions, Raikkonen took them, and everyone was happy. See also Alonso and McLaren in 2007 — Alonso desperately wanted to leave, McLaren was desperately keen to see him go, and so the contract was ended by mutual consent.

    But in this case, it appears that Liuzzi has a perfectly valid contract to drive for Force India this year, and that Force India will be intentionally refusing to honour it.

    This can’t be good for the team — as others have said, if you were a driver or a senior engineer, or a truckie or a supplier of sandwiches for the mechanics’ lunch for that matter, would you choose to be a part of an organisation which doesn’t respect its word or its contracts?

  15. Very similar to the Tom Walkinshaw -> Arrows -> Verstappen case.
    Contract validated by the FIA Contract Recognition Board and dumped weeks before the season.
    Walkinshaw lost and one of the reasons Arrows did not survive.

    Not sure about Mallya’s money however he lost a lot of money (and key people) the last year.
    One thing that is required to make it in F1 is stability and that is what Force India is missing.
    See the Arrows history again.

  16. Surely F1 is the wrong sport to be interested in if morality is so important to you?

    The Jordan/HHF especially comes to mind as an example of how morality is the last thing on teams minds when they decide to replace a driver. Yet no one seems to hold this against EJ now?

    Infact, there arent many teams that haven’t been involved in morally questionable activities in the last few years are there?

    1. Anthony,

      One can always try to improve. Otherwise I should simply sit back and take money from anyone who wanted to pay me to write the right things.

  17. Liuzzi can not be on that much money that Force India can not pay him out. I know Mallaya doesn’t like parting with his money, but in this instance surely its the most logical option.

    I personally think Liuzzi while talented and pretty quick was never going to set the world on fire. Yes he brings good technical knowledge but money talks in this day and age. Sutil obviously brings in some cash to the team which is why he stays on. Although with the amount of times he puts it into a wall or another car it might be cheaper to keep Liuzzi…

    If they want to get someone else in do it. But do it the right way, or at the least pay the poor guy what he is owed on his contract. If you kept track of Mallya’s business record you wouldn’t really want much to do with him.

  18. How would this be any different from Arrows “releasing” de la Rosa and then Verstapen from their contracts in successive years in the early 2000s?

    Or even Ayrton Senna going off to sign for Lotus having already committed himself to a Toleman contract for 1985?

    I’m not suggesting that I agree with such actions, but contracts have rarely been worth all that much in F1 – or, for that matter, anywhere else where there is money available to break them at will.

    1. John Gibson,

      Yes, contracts get broken. There are settlements. But it is always better and more ethical to settle first and announce afterwards.

  19. I can’t put my finger on exactly what, at a distant remove, makes me think VJM is so offputting. But i can imagine the reaction if i were a silly rich man, paying a marginal rate of tax you couldn’t unless you fancied doing a bit of porridge, and named my team “Force Britain”. I can see the comments attached to The Daily Mail’s web page story now . . It wouldn’t even have crossed Branson’s mind, and he’s not adverse to opportunistically flying the flag.

    In balance, we obviously do not know the terms of Luizzi’s contract, so maybe two exceptional drives simply aren’t enough. The meat of this story is however that VJM has been slapped on the wrist pretty hard for treating contracts as so much toilet paper.

    I think the whole point is he seems straight up, and there’s at least two big pointers to the idea VJM does not play nice. So, all else equal – if it is equal – the right thing to do is back the better character.

    It’s a bit Giovanni and Leporello. Leporello needs a new master, but can’t find one. We know what happens then . .

    (Incidentally Gaumont remastered Losey’s superb version on disc and i only noticed just before Christmas. The coolest thing, as exhilarating as the main show, is the epic work they did to get the recording in shape. Also little things like scouring for lost, unindexed, 2″ masters in 80 miles of archive. Couple hours of that story from some ruly notable artists. No English subtitles, for the documentaries, but consider it a lesson if, like me, you’re out of practice, the interviewees are articuate beyond language barriers)

    – j

  20. Wake up Joe,

    F1 has never been ethical. It wasnt ethical when they allowed Ferrari to use team orders when it was banned. It wasnt ethical when they re-introduced it even when the fans dont want team orders.

    Luizzi has been an embarrassment to watch. If drivers like Heidfeld, Hulkenberg cant find a seat in F1, i cant justify how Luizzi can keep his drive. He has had enough time to step up to the plate. Same can be said for Massa. Time is running out.

    I think in this instance, Force India has every right to Give Di Resta a seat or they risk losing him.

    I have never understood one thing in F1 and it still baffles me. These teams spend millions of dollars, thousands of man hours to find every 1/10ths of a second in performance, but then they go and waste it all on drivers who drive them lower than their potential.

    e.g. Petrov, Luizzi, Massa,

    1. Wrexter,

      If you read my blog, I think you would have known that I know very well that F1 is not very ethical. Does that make it right?
      A I have said elsewhere today, this is not about Liuzzi so the rest of your comment is not relevant

  21. I don’t think anybody has to do anything to let people in India know that Mallya is not a man with whom it is sensible to do business. What else can’t be reason that FIF1 never garnered any support from mainstream corporate world in India and why Mallya has to advertise only his brands on the car.

    Why else leading Petroleum Company, Tyre company, and Car battery company in India backed Narain Karthikeyan even when he had lost his F1 drive. Not to mention the Business house like Tata Group known for its credibility in subcontinent provided unwavering support to Narain and never backed team that Mallya claims as India’s representation on F1 grid? Point to note that Tata group preferred to a small presence on Ferrari car than Indian car.

    As far as Mallya’s credibility in F1 paddock goes, do I have to tell you how he managed to get Mosley’s blessing to represent India in WMSC ? Vote for Max in Spank Gate hearing.

    Is it surprise that Mallya replaced Chandok’s father as head of motorsports federation in India? I am sure if not for Karun’s career, the Chandoks wouldn’t have been putting up a smiley face show with VJM.

    But the F1 is littered with examples of scandalous characters and conflicts of interests is galore at all levels. So VJM may not be the only egotistical character on the grid.

    Mallya may think he is posterboy of Indian Business, but growing Indian economy is not driven just by liquor Barron who also runs a fledgling Airline. There are many many sectors in service industry, finance, and manufacturing and none have given Mallya their vote of confidence.

  22. It’s interesting isn’t it. I think Liuzzi is like a whole host of other drivers that haven’t really been given a fair crack because the current F1 environment doesn’t allow for it.

    Anthony Davidson is the example that usually ruffles my feathers as it’s known he was prevented from going to Jaguar to remain at BAR with the promise of a drive ‘soon’. What he eventually got was a Super Aguri-milk float!

    I agree with Joe’s comment about the ethical way that F1 should be run but I think it’s now quite clear to everyone that Joe’s (and a lot of everyone elses) ideal isn’t a reality in F1.

    Look at Karun Chandok – though some would be say that his career benefited from being out of the HRT and in the 5Live box. Look at Nico Hulkenberg being shoved to one side because Maldanado has been given more cash than he can carry! I’m sure Giorgio Pantano is wondering why he bothered winning the GP2 title only to be overlooked due to past problems in the F1 paddock!

    I thought Petrov was out too – politics can favour drivers too but obviously at the expense of others.

    It’s a shame for Liuzzi but as it’s a shame for all the others (and I include all team members) that are treated in this way.

  23. OT, but interesting,

    CSC, who are the IT services supplier, are asking their entire staff to take days off, or face salary cuts:

    Doesn’t fit with the F1 ethic, does it? Meanwhile it takes moments to order up a cluster from Amazon bigger than anything Virgin have likely been using, and shut it down when you’re done. I just don’t get how CSC could benefit from doing a sponsorship- for – services deal, unless some Pentagon bigwig is a dedicated F1 fan. Though that wouldn’t surprise me all that much. (I have noted earlier about CSC boasting they hae NASA grade CFD tech, which could be the real reason.) But Virgin’s argument is they are using computer tech as their core advantage, so the setup just seems incongruent to me.

    – j

  24. I am confused. When Liuzzi won the F3000 title in 2004 (with 8 victories out of 10 if my memory is correct) i seriously thought he’s gonna be the Next big Thing in F1. Tonio got his chance at Red Bull but all he did was listening to hip-hop music on his white iTunes, going out every night with pretty girls and living a NYC rapper’s life (except for drugs, maybe). He then went to Toro Rosso but was outclassed by Vettel in 2007. Fair enough, he got a second chance at Force India and served his apprenticeship as 3rd driver. Sure he delivered in Montreal and Korea last year but what else did he do to save his arse in the team? Not much. Now I’m disillusioned about him and mediocre drivers definitely don’t deserve a third chance.
    As for the Contract Recognition Board, I think it’s silly that a driver has to cover all the costs when this organisation came to life with the will of helping “lost” drivers. The CRB has never helped any driver in trouble, apart from J Button after the Williams/BAR saga – and that was done only because a) JB is British and b) he was important enough to be kept in the sport. Honestly I can’t understand all the fuss about saving Liuzzi – maybe it’s better for everyone if he’s messing around somewhere else.

    1. Real Simon,

      It is not about saving Liuzzi in this case. It is about ethics. The fact that I believe Liuzzi to a great wasted talent is another issue.

  25. Well, no contract is watertight. It’s pretty pointless to speculate when you can’t see the wording of said contract.

    Most contracts have a get out clause. Luizzi has had his chance anyway. I won’t miss him. If he’s as good as you say he is, he won’t have a problem finding another drive. Hope in Hell IMHO.

  26. So Findia made a mistake giving Liuzzi a two year race deal. They will have to pay for the mistake, apart from on this blog I haven’t seen any comments that they are not prepared to do this.

    Unfortunately I would say Liuzzi’s F1 career was destroyed by his points tally when compared to his teammates. Not by Findia benching him a year before his contract expires.

    Morality or otherwise, what would you do Joe? based performances in other formula surely Di Resta is deserving of a seat. I wish it was Sutil’s but it looks like that isn’t happening.

    1. Jon Wilde,

      As I said in another comment. When they have settled properly with Liuzzi and treated him with some respect then I will back off on them. Until they do, they deserve what they get.

  27. PS – Love your blog by the way, no critisism intended! Most of the popular blogs just regurgetate the same stories at the same time.

    It’s nice to see some opinion from you Joe, and that’s why I come here and what makes it different from the other sites.

  28. You never get a second chance to make a first impression!

    When VL turned up at Red Bull with his hat on crooked I always felt he was taking the piss and not very serious.

    I’m sure he wasn’t and I’m sure he wants to keep his job, but as I said in my first line……….

  29. When have the drivers ever looked out for anyone other than themselves when it came to seats or contracts? Some might like Liuzzi, some might even rate him as a good driver, but are any going to lose sleep over the fact of him not being in F1? I doubt it. On the other hand, some drivers might welcome the arrival of the latest in a fine tradition of Scottish F1 drivers and be thankful that Liuzzi is gone!

    Roll out the old “it’s my opinion so stuff you” response Joe, but this is the oddest post I’ve seen here. I admire your principle and agree that F1 ought be more ethical, but when was F1, or sport, or business, or life itself, ethical or fair? I respect also that you like Liuzzi and think he’s a good bloke whose talent is as yet unrealised, but surely you must realise that 99.99% of readers have no idea why you think that – and with good reason!

    If you are concerned by the principle of the thing, then it might be more effective to focus less explicitly on the circumstances of this particular case. This post makes you sound like you’re Liuzzi’s dad and have some personal chip on your shoulder about his (presumed) dismissal. If this is about the the principles of the case, or making a wider point about Force India or Mallya, can you not make that clear?

    The first sentence of the second paragraph “a stupid move” is a ridiculous thing for a professional journalist to say. Apart from the subjectivity and poor substantiation of the argument that follows, would it not be fair to credit Mallya with the fact of him being a rather successful chap implies he and his employees might not be “stupid”?

    1. forzaminardi

      It is a blog. If you do not understand what a blog is then I suggest you go and find out and don’t preach to me about professional journalism.

  30. Unfortunately F1 is a vicious sport and getting worse with Heidfeld and Hulkenberg without drives to make way for paid drivers. kovalainen dropping all the way from front of the field to the back just to keep a job. Then Hispania and Saubers mid season driver swapping shenanigans last year. Then Senna’s & Chandhoks F1 career looks like its going to have lasted 1 season in a car that would have made Alonso look bad.

    The fact is every team wants to find that talent that can move their car another 2-3 places up the grid and Liuzzi was never going to do that.

    You have a very fine window to make it in formula 1 and all drivers who make it, know that. Look at Massa, seconds away from being F1 Champion and he won’t have a seat by the end of the year.

    Yes FI are reneging on a contract but i’m sure Liuzzi will be handsomely paid off, as for ruining his F1 career? he was already on the downslope, this has just brought reality to him a bit sooner than he expected.

    1. Martin,

      When Liuzzi has been properly paid off or given a suitable drive in recompense then I will back off on Mallya.

  31. Can Mallya not just buy out the rest of Liuzzi’s contract or would Liuzzi have to agree to that? It’s a but of a mess really, I’d love to see Di Resta in a race seat and Hulkenberg keeping his eye in at least for 2012, but I do also feel bad for Liuzzi and obviously he has a contract. If the FIA Contract Recognition board do award in Liuzzi’s favour would Force India then have to give Liuzzi Di Resta’s seat straight away? Or would it just mean Mallya had to compensate Liuzzi?

  32. I’m just going to say it outright: I’m glad I found your blog Joe. Liuzzi’s situation would probably go completely unnoticed to me if it wasn’t for you and it’s this kind of journalism that I think Formula One needs more of.

  33. I guess Mallya did the sums and decided that the Mercedes cash for running di Resta was going to be more than the likely cost of settling with Tonio, this is very bad business ethics and bad business full stop. Who is going to want to go and work at Force India now. If a team won’t honour a contract with a driver what chance has a designer or engineer got? I don’t like Mallya’s attitude I doubt his committment to the team and I don’t think he is the right man to move the Silverstone based team that he bought forwards.
    I have been critical in the past of Liuzzi but that really isn’t the issue, a contract is a contract and shouldn’t be signed if not to be honoured.

  34. I am ambivalent about Liuzzi. I’ve never been terribly impressed with him, but also never thought he was as bad as his results last year. I do agree with you, Joe, about people and teams needing to honor their contracts. Liuzzi has a contract for this year and, whether he drives or not, that contract needs to be paid in full.

  35. Hmmm…Some strong comments here. I think I’m a bit middle of the road with this one. I agree that morals and ethics are vital but I think it’s a little naive to think there are many left in F1. As in most areas, sport or business, the decline of morals and ethics is inversely proportional to the increase in money.

    I think Liuzzi, major talent or not, has had plenty of time to prove himself in F1 and not managed it. So, he probably deserves to go and let someone else have a chance. But, the fact that FI signed him to a multi-year deal is their mistake and they should be forced to suffer for it. I do think though that regardless of the outcome, Liuzzi’s career will either end now or in 10 months time.

  36. Joe,

    Then the same logic should apply for Lucas DiGrassi, Nico Hulkenberg et every racer, who have been dropped in favor of a pay racer.

    Atleast in this case, Luizzi has a contract, would be getting a severance fee. The rest of the guys have been left in the lurch due to lack of funds.

    Mighty surprising really that Mallya for being a man so bad with business, is looking at non-paid drivers as options as well, unlike teams like HRT, Virgin & Lotus who only field paid ones.

    And as far as official word goes, none yet from the Force India guys on who has been confirmed.

    And if they do confirm either the Hulk or DiResta, i would be proud of the racing desire of the team.


  37. Joe

    I don’t think Simon Benedict was advocating ‘living like animals’ or that we ‘stab one another in the back’ at all.

    Better F1 drivers than Liuzzi have been binned left, right and centre in F1, as well as stabbed in the back. Rene Arnoux and Rubens Barrichello by Ferrari, John Watson by McLaren, Damon Hill by Williams. Not all contract disputes I grant you, but all far better and more accomplished drivers than Liuzzi who seems to have no shortage of journalists willing to make his excuses for him.

    He reminds me a little of Morbidelli, Larini, de la Rosa, Verstappen or any number of other drivers who are good, worth a slot on the grid but unlikely to light up a race and have everybody talking on Monday morning. Paul di Resta might just be that good so from a sporting perspective I can see why Force India have done it.

    Of course he should be compensated for any contractual failings but that’s a different argument altogether. I wouldn’t go expecting ethics from billionaires though. You don’t accumulate that much wealth without having a little of the sociopath about you.

  38. The big issue here is whether or not F1 drivers deserve to have contracts that can be legally upheld.
    Bosses like Mallya are being allowed to ignore any legal requirement to their employees.

  39. Mark McCormack the founder of global sports agency IMG and some say founder of sports marketing once said that he believed all arguments could be settled before ever reaching court by having a man to man discussion.

    To all those posters above, unfortunately for you all – the point you are missing when composing your reposte to Joe is that you are fanatical about the sport and hence your judgement one way or another becomes biased.

    If you do take a minute to look at the subject, Joe does have a point. Mallya is perhaps a man of poor judgement on this occasion but who is right 100% of the time? I am sure if Mallya had taken the time to speak directly with Liuzzi and his management, they could most likely have managed their way out of this situation. Perhaps they have – hence the announcement shortly.

    This is a case of bad business practice and something which really should not be looked at as a precedent for the future.

    I am sure the drivers will not be too bothered by Liuzzi’s contract being torn up – their management might be – who knows?

    I am sure too that when you look at it subjectively Liuzzi has not bought real value to the team. He certainly did not perform badly, but with Di Resta, you are potentially getting someone of a similar calibre but also someone who can bring a cost saving to the business. Why would you not do it?

    Liuzzi will most likely end up in Indycars with Andretti. He has a spare seat at the moment.

    Let’s see shall we….

  40. I agree with Jason. Kimi was ousted by money, money from banco santander, just as many other talented drivers and nobody said a thing. He setled, of course he setled. What was he supposed to do? Fight and stay in Ferrari so they’d give him a shitty car just like the F60? By the way Raikkonen is much more talented than most of the drivers on the grid today.
    I don’t like what happened to hulkenberg nor heidfeld. If the same thing occur to liuzzi then I wouldn’t like it either but the drivers won’t do nothing about that. That drivers union is unfunctional.

  41. Although I disagreed with your other post on Liuzzi’s abilities as a driver, I have to say I agree with the general theme of this one. Being an American and a third-year law student, it’s quite amazing to see just how often contracts are broken in the world of Formula 1. Nowhere else in sports on this side of the pond are competitors, support staff, suppliers, etc. shorted by long-running organizations without consequence.

    So the obvious question is: why is this state of affairs the norm in F1? Is it the same in soccer? I’m wondering if EU contract law is to blame?

  42. I’m not entirely sure why everyone is having a go at the article. If its because people think that Liuzzi isn’t great then thats fair enough, but Joe’s logic of an injunction etc holds true. This is a breach of contract, its completely different to Raikkonen because he was paid off which was part of his contract – and even then, he would have had to accept that pay out. He didn’t chose to fight it because he wanted the money/to get out of F1. Liuzzi still wants to be in F1 so he has a right to fight that.

    The only problem would be that no court would order specific performance of the contract due to a breakdown of relationship. If Liuzzi choses to fight the breach, he’ll be out of F1 forever. Which is a shame in my opinion.

  43. And of course the comments are rolling in about how naive it is to think contracts have ever meant anything F1, it’s always been this way, etc., much like comments about how pointless and hypocritical it would be to actually punish those involved in Crashgate, because these sorts of things happen in F1 all the time — Briatore and Symonds just had the bad luck to get caught — and anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a fantasy world.

    But even if all these things are true, is it not okay to think that maybe they ought to be different? Because it’s “always been this way,” does that make it right?

    Personally, I agree with Joe: I’d rather have F1 be a sport in which cheating is punished and contracts actually mean something. Frankly, I’m surprised that that position would even be considered controversial!

  44. BTW Joe, I’m glad someone is still willing to tilt at windmills in support of ethics and morals. I really enjoy reading your blog every day. Keep fighting the good fight!

  45. “Why not try to aspire to something better rather than accepting that life is about scrabbling around with the rats in the gutter?”

    Why not try to aspire to a better driver like di Resta rather than accepting a second-rate driver in Liuzzi?

    Oh wait, they just did.

  46. Force India don’t have much success when it comes to legal action.

    The High Court in London ordered Force India to pay £852,000 in damages to Aerolab for unpaid service fees, after an unsuccessful attempt to sue Team Lotus failed.

    Etihad Airways and Aldar won a Court of Appeal case which ruled that they did not have to pay damages to Force India for an early termination of a sponsorship agreement, linked to an earlier agreement about alcohol association sponsorship.

    And then there’s the dispute over payments to Colin Kolles.

    Now Liuzzi is out on his ear, but with contract in hand.

    1. There was a court action in London last week between Force India and a German company called Futurecom, which has been providing hospitality services. Anyone out there know the details?

  47. it’s plain and simple business deal, which improves team’s chances to score more points than last year & reduce errors from one particular driver who underperformed. I’m sure team has had it’s legal team look at it. It’s pretty normal for a guy to get fired in any organization. and F1 is not an exception.

    People who have worked in competitive job environments would understand this!!

  48. Joe – You have agreed in you comments to the main post that F1 is not ethical.

    So I would like to give example of McLaren 06 season where team treated the incumbent drivers completely unprofessionally on back of signing a Driver’s title holder.

    It was simply hard to believe that team that was fighting for double championships the year before having the fastest car on the grid not able to sort out engine mapping issues, not able to prep cars for the drivers in free practices, releasing drivers in traffic in qualifying and mucking up their grid positions. running barely 7-8 laps in free practices (lowest on entire grid).

    This denying their drivers to have fair crack at championship (given the resources team has at its disposal) was unprofessional.

    I found thisunethical and stopped supporting McLaren from that season onwards.

    On Liuzzi issue – Just like you, I am not a big fan of the Italian , but its matter of principle, team has to honor the contract (like BMW did in sorts with JV in 2006, while waiting for excuse to dump him).

  49. Kimi had a couple of interesting points when he was paid off his contract. He said that it was meaningless to be a part of the team when he knew that the team didn’t want him and so he settled on being bought out a year early.

    Lets hypothesize that legal actions require FI to keep Liuzzi on for 2011. Will Liuzzi want to be a part of the team knowing that they don’t want him?

  50. In the long run. I hope that this is the exception rather than the rule.

    Remember that drivers have unceremoniously dumped teams in the past (Jenson Button, Michael Shumacher), but that has not become the norm.

  51. It’s absolutely wrong to expect a team to suffer because one individual is not performing. It affect entire teams performance, and hence i can understand FI’s point of view.

    Any idea how much more money Williams made over FI’s cause of that one less point?

  52. What is with all the aggressive comments? joe’s absolutely spot on in everything he’s written here, as he always is. Mallya is breaking contract law and is acting extremely unethically. No matter what you think of Liuzzi those are the facts.

    I love all these weekend fans who think they know more about F1 than one of the most respected journalists in the sport.

  53. Presumably Liuzzi’s contract has performance clauses. Has he met those clauses? (A rhetorical question, since we won’t be privy to the small print of that document)

    I feel sorry for him. If he has a valid contract, assuming he met the performance clauses or he has good legal reason to believe they are invalid because of insufficiently-performing equipment provided to him, then of course he should expect to be racing from a contractual/legal/moral standpoint, if not necessarily a Formula 1 realistic standpoint.

    Whether I think he is good enough or not to merit keeping the drive is by-the-by in that sense (I don’t think he is, but like I say, not the issue).

    Unfortunately there seems little to gain from wilfully fighting it – who wants to be in a team environment where the team have been told they MUST run you, talk about bad blood – so the only reasonable course open is to negotiate the terms of your dismissal.

    I don’t think di Resta should somehow be made out to be the bad guy, though, or that he doesn’t deserve the drive simply because he’s not in F1 and Tonio already is.

    Perhaps the only sensible thing to do is only offer your race drivers 1 year contracts…

  54. There’s so much vengeance and hatred in one article.

    Why don’t we wait till we hear from Liuzzi before throwing rocks at each other??

    Liuzzi would have probably settled something good or maybe not, it makes sense to wait till we hear from him.

    F1 is never a ethical sport.(period)

    I can cite 100’s of examples if not thousands, with various spying scandals,race fixing,etc

    What Vijay does with his business and payment terms is his own affairs why do we feel the moral necessity to poke in to his actions and picture him as evil person?

    1. Neo,
      Did it cross your mind that I might have some idea what has been going on in recent weeks? If there was a suitable settlement do you think I would have attacked Mallya? Of course not… if the parties agree then the contract is dissolved and there is not a problem. That is fine. This has been going on for weeks and it is clear to me from numerous sources that no settlement has been made and Mallya is simply trying to use his financial muscle to bulldoze one of the small guys out of the way. I am simply saying that if there is no settlement Mallya must honour the terms of the contract. If he chooses not to do that then the courts will take action. The sad fact is that by the time the legal process kicks in, Liuzzi’s career will have been destroyed. Mallya knows that. Liuzzi knows that and you should be able to understand that. If you read the article and think it is filled with vengeance and hatred then I cannot help you. I am simply pointing out, in a not-so subtle fashion, that ethics are important if one wants to have a popular sport. You may have a different moral code and that is fine by me – I just would not want to do business with you if you think this sort of thing is acceptable. Should we all shut up and say nothing when people do unethical things? When wealthy people think they can do as they please and believe themselves above the law. Well, that may be your way, but it is not mine…

      From a philosophical point of view, your views make no sense at all. If everyone and everything in F1 is corrupt and unethical why on earth do you bother to have an interest? What is the point of watching it on TV or reading about it? How do you know what is true and what is not true? How can you be sure of anything?

  55. Mallya and money.

    Well there is enough evidence in the business press in India, publicly available about how much money he owes to the petroleum companies that have more than once threatened to supply aviation fuel to his airline on account of non-payment.
    In fact last year one of the major oil companies would give him fuel on cash-and-carry basis. But miraculously, (presumably using his connections in the corridors of power) he managed to get the entire credit restructured. This preferential treatment to his airline caused lot of resentment among the other airline operators. Mallya has a long history of -from much before he became a team owner — not been upfront with payments.
    In the line of my professional duty, I have interacted with him on more than a few occasions, and have found him an extremely difficult person to deal with. Force India’s termination of Liuzzi’s contract fits the pattern of his dealings.
    One example that straight away comes to the mind is the way he dealt with the top management of the Bangalore Royal Challengers — which he also owns — after the first edition of the Indian Premier League. The CEO, was given a summery sack for reasons that remained vague.
    As for as I am concerned he is not a man of his words. In 2007 immediately after taking over Spyker he grandly announced that it will be the mission of the team to launch a young driver development programme right from karting onwards. It has been four years now, but there are no signs that he has any intentions of fulfilling his promise. When I last spoke to him on the subject during the Singapore GP, he remained as vague as before. My sources have told me that the only reason he has not shown any interest till now is because he doesn’t want to put up the money to run the programme. For all his liking for things that are Indian, he has never missed an opportunity to rubbish Narain Karthikeyan publicly. In fact far from being perceived as the ‘poster boy’ of Indian business, the business and the sports press treats him with a lot of circumspection.
    For the sake of argument, Mallya has every right to chose the drivers of his choice for the 2011 season, but in a civilised world there are ways and there are ways on doing things.
    The proof of whether Paul de Rista is a better than Tonio Luizzi or not will be there for everyone to see once the season starts.
    As to how he became the chairman of Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, is a complicated story. For some other time maybe, but suffice to say for the time being that Indian motor sports has suffered immensely for eight years due the political war between the FMSCI (to whom Mallay lent tacit support) and one Mr. Nzir Hoosein. For the record, Mallya has not invested a single penny in Indian motor sports series or championship.
    Well done Joe for saying like it is.
    Note: There are a few Indian sports journalist whom Mallya doesn’t see eye-to-eye because they dared not to toe his line.

  56. Just a quick note. All those over here who are saying that ethics don’t matter have sadly missed the wood for the trees. Sports without ethics is no sport. That’s the bottom line. And, in today’s time and economic environment the need for ethics in Formula 1 is even more pertinent. I believe that professional journalists bear a huge responsibility to uphold the principals of ethics for the greater good of the sport and spare us from hand-wringing in the future.

  57. Joe.
    I fully agree with you on a proper settlement for Liuzzi.

    There are two things we discussing here, not honoring his contract for a drive and not providing proper settlement.

    I’m certainly feel the same as you for not provinding proper settlement.

    I hope Liuzzi joins HRT to stay in F1.

    Media in India are afraid to write anything against Mallaya since he provide them ad-fees for his airlines to most of them. I hope it changes soon.

    Also he feels he has exclusive rights to Indian participation in Formula 1, he never wanted any Indian to be a F1 driver since he feels people would follow the driver rather his misnamed “Force India” i can assure you Majority of indians follow Mclaren and Ferrari than his team.

  58. This article is very pro-Liuzzi…
    I agree, Liuzzi hasn’t done a terrible job, he hasn’t done a lot of stupid crashes or something like that. But he hasn’t shown big potentials of speed either.

    Liuzzi had multiple chances to show something, but he never really accomplished anything special. If you take into account that drivers who have shown more potential in F1 and in the feeder series like Hulkenberg, Grosjean, … I think it’s only fair that mediocre drivers like Liuzzi lose their seat so other talents like Di Resta can have a shot at it

    1. Tim,

      The article is not about Liuzzi. It is about ethics. You may think that Liuzzi is a mediocre driver, but you should add that he is “a mediocre driver with a contract” that has not been resolved.

  59. What is stupid about dropping a driver with 60 odd race starts and no impressive results while signing up the two hottest unsigned talents available? Liuzzi looked like being a star when he won F3000 but he hasn’t delivered. The reasons don’t really matter. Many drivers are unlucky but who needs an unlucky racing driver?

    Quoting Fernando Alonso in this instance is rather strange given his recent comments about Michael Schumacher. Many people don’t rate Adrian Sutil but I remember Lewis Hamilton being interviewed at the start of his first season in F1 being asked who, of the drivers he had raced against before he thought would succeed in F1 and he named Sutil.

    For whatever reason Liuzzi scored less than half the points Sutil did despite many people thinking Sutil is nothing special. Liuzzi has had his chance and not delivered. Surely it is a good thing that a driver who has not delivered is paid off and replaced with drivers with potential who have not yet failed. Too many times in the past we have seen really good drivers not get a break while others spend many years on the grid and never deliver anything to justify their existence.

    1. Steven,

      I have no doubt that in time di Resta will do a decent job in F1, but I do believe that he is at a big disadvantage because of the five years he has spent in DTM. In my opinion this is not anywhere near as competitive as F1 and to think that he will be as good as Sebastian Vettel because that was the case five years ago is failing to understand the importance of experience in modern F1. Vettel has spent five years developing and learning. He has come on enormously from the early days when, oddly enough, he was about the same sort of pace as Liuzzi. He was lucky because being a German speaker he was of more value to Red Bull and they messed Liuzzi around while Vettel’s career developed.

      However, good for di Resta if he can prove me wrong. The stupid thing I was referring to was to dump Liuzzi without first resolving the contract problems. That is simply not intelligent. Mallya can easily solve the problem by paying for Liuzzi to move to HRT. Why has he not done that?

  60. Liuzzi would hard pressed to get an injunction in Bahrain. The Grand Prix is a huge fish in Bahrain’s *very* small, very undemocratic pond. The pressure from the local event organizers to keep the Bahrain courts out of this would be massive.

    Liuzzi would have immensely better odds of an injunction in any of the large established democracies.

    As such, his first line of attack should probably be in those European nations hosting pre-season testing. If the threat of a pre-season testing lockout doesn’t motivate Force India to settle, he should look to the 2nd race of the 2011 season.

    As Paul Stoddart has shown us, the Australian courts aren’t likely to be bullied around by Formula One event organizers. When Stoddart threatened to keep all of Formula One from running in Austrailia, it caused Max Mosley to make dire and direct threats to all Australian motorsports. The Aussie courts didn’t blink, they ruled against Mosley.

    I believe Liuzzi should focus his full attention on the Australian courts with an aim of preventing Force India from participating in the Australian Grand Prix. F1 is a very small fish in Australia’s massive pond.

  61. Vivek,Mallya did not take over Spyker on his own.It was 50% deal between him and Michiel Mol and his father.Mllya for sure takes all the attention and personally I wonder what the Mol family thinks what’s going on at Force India.Overhere in Holland you never hear anyhting about this.

  62. Joe,

    I know perfectly well what a blog is and I know perfectly well what your profession is and your qualifications to be such. Given that you are a professional F1 journalist, the blog exists under your well-known name and that your entries here are related to matters F1, is it not safe to assume that the blog and those entries reflect your professional opinions, knowledge and insight? Is the success of your blog and the loyalty of your readers not founded on your unique level of access to F1 movers and shakers and your insightful and qualified analysis of the F1 issues arising?

    While dismissing my criticism of your “stupid” comment so flippantly, you tell Neo that your opinion is informed by the fact that you “have some idea what has been going on in recent weeks”. Hence on one hand you want this blog to be regarded as ‘just’ your opinion while on the other you wish your opinion to be respected in particular because you know things most of us don’t. Which is it to be? I respect your knowledge and insight (that’s why I read your blog) but it irritates me when you let what appears to be personal antipathy or enthusiasm colour your writing.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again, by reading and commenting, even if it is to question or criticise, we are expressing respect for you. When you reply so arrogantly you don’t show a lot of respect for your readers. I suggest to you in return that you familiarise yourself with normal blog protocol, and if you believe a comment merits a reply you address the issue, not attack the correspondent.

  63. tonypresser, yeah you are right about the mol family….if it came across in my comment that Mallya had taken over spyker all by himself it was inadvertent…

  64. just a questiokn Joe,…

    Is there any possibility that they have already come to an arrangement with Tonio that suits him…

    I haven’t heard anything from him so as you seem to have such an interest in Tonio, you might know

  65. i never thought he was that good ,i think di resta will be great after dtm maybe he will show some aggresive overtaking !! lol

  66. I can’t work up much passion over Liuzzi. If he’s been badly treated then I do feel sorry for him but, apart from that, he’s had plenty of chances with little to show for them apart from some silly caps and a couple of statements about how manly F1 is and how women can’t race. Which is sort of amusing considering he’s now been found not good enough by Force India.

  67. Joe,

    I understand fully the disadvantage that di Resta has by spending so long out of single seaters and not maintaining career momentum. I watched the affect that had on Allan McNish who I watched from his third ever car race to almost going out of the sport to finally getting into F1 in his 30s. I also remember Johnny Herbert’s comments about the loss of career momentum after his F3000 accident.

    Presumably unless Liuzzi gets a settlement to his liking he can go to the contracts recognition board and have his contract enforced or achieve an acceptable settlement.

  68. Joe:

    This is the second time you defend Liuzzi. I really don´t understand your concept of a good driver. He can be a great kart driver, but is a mediocre F1 driver. He has more than 4 season under his belt and has not proven anything. Force India move is great and has nothing stupid in it because I am sure Di Resta will be better.

    1. rafael,

      It is not about Liuzzi. It is about ethics, at least it is if one is writing for people who understand the concept.

  69. Joe,

    Love your blog and your books!

    Well, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with FIF1 dropping Tonio, if they feel he doesn’t perform to expectation and that they can replace him with a better driver, as a team it is their duttie to put the best drivers possible in their cars…
    Having said that there is an ethical way of doing it, buying out his contract or coming up with a settlement prior to the announcements would have been the right way to handle this situation. If they are dead set against letting TL in the car then they should find an agreement and move pass the contract. Like Kimi said there is no point of driving for a team that doesn’t want you in their car, Kimi worked on the agreement and was “fine” moving on he was well paid to do so!
    Buying out contracts is something that has happened many times in the past, even the other way around when Jenson Button bought out his contract from Williams to stay at Honda!

    But again most teams handle it as partners with the drivers and by the time it goes public both party are quiet and you know the driver was paid off and life moves on.

    Isn’t FIF1 the worse in the paddock at paying their bills, contractors etc as well?

    Joe on a different topic in your last book you wrote about another Saward, any relations? or did I miss read the name.

    1. Franck,

      People have different views about the question of Liuzzi’s performance, which is fine. I do not think he deserves to be kicked out, but that is just an opinion. As you can see many people think differently. I don’t mind that so long as they express that opinion in a polite and sensible fashion. The point in this discussion is that if you wish to break a contract you should do it in the right way. Riding roughshod over people is not how things should be done in F1. To me it brings the sport into disrepute. This is why they created the Contract Recognition Board after the mess with Schumacher-Moreno back in 1991.

      As to the question of the Saward in the ()Henry Kendall book, yes, Donald Saward was my grandfather, thus Kendall was my great-grandfather. I am old enough to have met him (just), although I have only the vaguest memories.

  70. Joe,

    About Futurecom: In 2006 they signed a contract with Midland F1 for providing the team’s hospitality till 2011. Obviously Midland became Spyker and Spyker became Force India.

    After several payment issues in July and September 2009 (allegedly about € 1.5 million), Force India switched to Kitz Catering & Service for 2010.

    This could be another example of contract breach by Force India, although the team says the motorhome had a poor construction quality (it leaked during rain showers etc.)

    About the morality and ethical side: I think you’re spot on. It’s ridiculous to sack a driver like this.

    Although there were rumours, as far as I know Liuzzi heard nothing from the team during the winter period: they (sort of) let him believe he had a solid 2011 race seat, because he had a contract. And then, just 43 days before the first race they decide to hire another driver? …Well thanks Tonio for almost 3 years of testing, waiting for a full F1 drive. Thanks for doing 24 races for us but your 2011 contract is worth the same as toilet paper!

    As a supporter for more than 10 years, I really wonder how much time I’m going spend following F1 in the future.

    More and more F1 is becoming an game without morality, with cheating teams who deny everything, loads of political talk, lawsuits and most of all a game where big money talks above everything.

    1. J,

      I tend to disagree with you on this. I think that F1 is moving into an era with MORE morality (at least on the surface) than in the past. Big money does flow into the sport, but at a certain points these corporations likes to be seen as being decent as well, because they think (rightly) that the public will trust them more if they behave well and the idea of corporate responsibility kicks in. Obviously in India they have different ideas.

  71. What it all boils down to in the end is this. There are FOUR types of drivers in F1 these days. They are:

    1. Champions (or Potential Champions)
    2. Talented Drivers holding seats that could possibly be filled by more drivers in column 1…
    3. Rookies and newcomers with POTENTIAL to be in Column 1 with experience…
    and 4. Pay drivers.

    And Liuzzi is in the 2nd column. He’s grand. He’s okay. He’s nothing special. He’ll never be champion. Not in a million years. He could be sat in a McLaren and be outpaced by pretty much any teammate one can think of in the mid-upper level of the sport.

    And Paul Di Resta is firmly in Column 3. With a season or two under his belt he could be mixing it up with Kubica and Hamilton at the front (given a level playing field with cars) if he follows the form he’s been showing throughout his career.

    When Liuzzi was in Column 3 he floundered and never made the grade. Time will tell if Di Resta can succeed where Tonio failed.

    And personally, I think it’s a much, much bigger crime that Massa is still driving a Ferrari this year than Liuzzi is out of a drive. Massa has a column all to himself, the eternal number 2 driver.

  72. I think we’ll be finding out the real truth in the next few days. Tonio is keeping very quiet. He has just been sacked with a valid contract. I can’t imagine he’s particularly tickled pink by that, but his silence is almost deafening.

    Joe, how about a Liuzzi interview? Your disdain for Mr. Mallya is very evident. It would be interesting to hear what Tonio has to say about him. My opinion is of a man who feels holier than thou because he’s stinkin rich. Doesn’t mean he is not a total w***er, right?…….

  73. I’m surprised then that we have heard nothing all this time…makes me think he’s got some arrangement somewhere.

    Anyway, IMO he’s not a great loss and unfortunately, contracts are broken everyday. So long as they pay him out, I don’t have a problem.

  74. joe,

    I have 2 points to clarify
    1) Fans’ point of view view:
    Being an avid follower of Force India since its inaugral season, it was difficult being a supporter to see my team lose day in and day out. Always considered top be the back trackers on the track. Though we were considerably good last season, the maximum points came out from Adrians pocket. Whereas Vito was a mere half of sutil’s. Imagining if liuzzi would also have given the same points as Sutil, we would have beaten off Williams to sixth with ease.

    2) Force India’s point of view
    Me being a fan, who has no money to gain out of the situation, wants this change to happen in the team, imagine a company who has to keep the fans and their bank balance happy at the same time. Ethically, it is unfair to liuzzi, but is it right to keep someone working for you, even though the returns are not what are expected out of them and at the same time, pay them good sums of money?

  75. I don’t think Joe is over-reacting. Does F1 always have to live by the lowest common denominator? So Liuzzi losing his ride at the end of January is OK.

    What about some basic decency (sp?), if you no longer want him, tell him last September so he can pursue other opportunities and not have his career ruined.

    I am really tired of the “their no worse than anyone else” argument. How about raising the bar of ethics and fair play?

    Not really a fan of Liuzzi but I don’t like seeing people screwed over.

  76. Liuzzi sealed his fate by not being faster than Sutil which isnt hard to do for two seasons. F1 is suppose to be about the best drivers. Liuzzi was a waste of a grid slot just like Buemi and Alguasuari. Boring uninspiring drivers. VJM’s big mistake was offering Liuzzi a three year contract. What was he thinking.

  77. I dont know why so many people have attacked this article, and attacked it as a result of reading it incorrectly! Clearly this is not only about Liuzzi, as joe has commented a hundred times, it is about ethics. But what surprises me more is that anyone who regularly reads this blog will know that Joe frequently laments the state of ethics within the sport, and also is very plain about letting his opinion be known. So why this article has come as such a surprise to people, and why some are commenting that it is ‘biased in favor of Liuzzi’, i really dont know. Go and read the rest of the tripe that is served to us by your average following-the-corporate-institutional-line-journalist that is all over the internet and publications.

  78. well i haven’t read all the replies but the way i see it is that i have a contract of employment at my place of work. if i’m rubbish at my work then i’ll get the sack.

    the question is not about ethics, it’s about how rubbish liuzzi was. the fact is that you don’t get that many people standing up in defence of his performance over 2010.

    1. john g,

      There are two different issues here and people are confusing the two. 1) Does Liuzzi deserve to be fired? 2) Is Vijay Mallya an ethical person given the way he has conducted this business. On the first point, you think one thing, I think another. Neither one of us will change our minds. I think using the word “rubbish” is really unnecessary and unfair, but some people get carried away when commenting on blogs. On the second point, there are two kinds of people in the world: ethical and unethical. Anyone who argues that Liuzzi should be fired without a proper settlement is unethical. Those who argue that Liuzi should go but with a suitable settlement are ethical.

  79. The point is this;
    there is a right and wrong way of doing things. Force India have done this the wrong way.
    The right way of dropping a driver who is under contract is, talk with the driver, explain the situation, offer to buy him out of his contract, agree terms, release a press release thanking the driver for his efforts and wishing him well for the future. All this should be done as close to the end of the season as possible so the driver has time to find himself a ride for the following year.
    Mallya has done none of these things, he has left it late, not agreed terms with Liuzzi, not said anything to anyone, in fact Tonio seems to have been airbrushed out of the teams history. This is a shocking way to behave and I sincerely hope Mallya is made to regret behaving in such a shoddy manner. The decent thing to do would be pay for the HRT seat, but it seems Mallya has no interest in doing the right thing.
    As people have said before this is all about how you do business with people, it has nothing to do with the talents of Tonio Liuzzi. If the retched Mallya gets away with this it will set a precedent in F1 that driver contracts can be torn up at will, this would be very bad for the sport.

    1. TimW,

      I am not a lawyer nor a judge but what I can tell you is that the Contract Recognition Board exist to rule on the status of contracts, not on their clauses. Thus it will rule that Liuzzi has a valid contract with Force India in 2011, if he indeed does have such a contract. Mallya must abide by this ruling as set out in Schedule 11 of the Concorde Agreement in which it states that all driver-team contracts must include a clause in which both parties submit to the jurisdiction of the Contract Recognition Board and agree to abide by its decisions.

      There is a possibility of legal actions over any performance clauses that might exist, but it is very hard for a court to decide on such matters as a judge can only listen to the opinions of those involved and other witnesses presented. I doubt given what has happened that Mallya’s lawyers would want to risk going down that path as a loss might mean not only the need to pay Liuzzi’s salary for 2011, but probably also the possibility of punitive damages, based on what Tonio might have earned in the future if Mallya had respected the contract. Thus the wise thing would be for Mallya to offer Liuzzi a respectable settlement, which would allow him to join HRT, or strike a deal with HRT for the team to take over Liuzzi’s contract.

  80. I don’t know enough about Liuzzi but I do hold Joe’s opinion in high esteem so it guess it would have been nice to have seen what Tonio could have done this coming year.

    What is really annoying about this driver line-up is that it is in no way a sporting decision. I guess Sutil is staying for a 5th year because of the Medion money he brings. Then presumably, given what we know about Force India’s ‘credit history’, they may well have felt some obligation to Mercedes hence the new signing…

  81. Henry,

    Whilst I agree with you that Joe Saward’s stance regarding ethics in F1 seem to have been lost by many, I take issue with the implication his actions are simply to express frustrations with the sport.

    During the off season many journalists, Joe Saward, James Allen, Adam Cooper will make deliberately provocative statements in order to ensure decent hit rates and reader responses. There is nothing wrong with this ( I have lived off it for the past 2 months!!), but you can hardly say the all the articles published on this blog are purely to inform. Joe Saward has a business to run, he can’t afford to go quiet during the off season. Small stories will become hugely significant in order to maintain readership. ( I’m not suggesting Liuzzi being dropped is a small story)

    Joe himself said at some point in the off season he had more important things to do than report HRT news, only for a few weeks later to make a detailed update on the team situation.

    1. Jon Wilde,

      You are wrong. I wrote what I wrote because I believe in an ethical sport. The rest of your spiel is simply not correct.

  82. Question: Why on earth do these mediocre teams who hire not so great drivers give them contracts for more than a year? Surely it would make more sense to them to offer 1 year contracts that are weighted on their side i.e. we can fire you but you can’t fire us.
    My business has a temporary lease which is weighted just like this. Sure it gives me no sense of security whatsoever but I HAVE renewed every year for 10 years because both me and my landlord are happy.

  83. Joe,

    Have you ever wondered why Mercedes doesn’t put its prodigies in GP2 instead of DTM? Does it have to do with the fact that GP2 is Renault-powered or is it because DTM costs less that GP2? Does it?

    I fully agree with you that Vijay Mallya has more than bloated ego. In a corruption-dominated India he can get away with outstanding dues and lobbying but in Europe it’s more difficult to run away from obligations and then stand tall. I for one was completely disgusted with him naming his team Force India. It was all done to generate support, but I think anyone with avarage intelligence will know that it was purely his personal adventure and the only thing “Indian” in the team is him. He has no programmes to give Indian engineers and techies an exposure to F1, or to give Indian companies and IIT (Indian Insititute of Technology) brains a chance to get actively involved in Formula 1. In my view, only then can a team be called Indian.

    In that sense I agree with your article, but if you’re concerned about the unethical treatment of Liuzzi hope you’re also concerned about how Sebastien Bourdais was treated in Toro Rosso. I was a great fan of the 4-time Champ Car champion, and as someone mentioned before it was a technical failure that prevented him form having a great result at Monza 2008. I don’t think he was Vettel material, but he deserved a chance, at least till the end of the season.

    With all due respect for the need for ethics, I believe Force India has struck gold with its 2011 driver line-up. Having Di Resta and Hulkenberg on board is a dream team, one which I think will put the team on a rise. Mallya has ego, legal and credibility issues but apart from Eddie Jordan he is the only guy who has owned the squad for the longest period of time -Midland and Spyker came and went but Force India has weathered the storms (some of its own making?) and I hope it will turn around this season.

    Finally, while teams not honouring contracts is unethical how about drivers no honouring contracts. Giancarlo Fisichella (in what my Dad considered completely unethical) dumped his leadership responsibilities with Force India to join Ferrari. Mallya said nothing then. I believe it was the worst decision Fisichella ever made. I hastened the end of his F1 career. And Force India too suffered as a result of the lack of proper leadership. But Mallya understood Fisichella’s emotions and let him go without a noice (isn’t it?).

  84. Finally Joe, the greatest unethical situation is a sport being governed by a man’s business interests? Isn’t F1 suffering as a result (though it has also benefitted immensely from it)? Why is that with so many great racetracks in America such as Laguna Seca and Watkins Glen F1 needs a special track to be constructed for it to race there?

    So the sport ultimately serves the green-consuming need of one individual. Isn’t that the greatest unethical situation ever?

  85. Paying off Luizzi seems the the least of their financial problems if Fridays shenanigans is anything to go by…

    1. India!

      Friday? I presume you are referring to the visit by the bailiffs to the factory in order to get the team to pay up the money that the court ordered to be paid to Van der Garde. Or are we talking about the court case with the German hospitality company?

  86. Joe:

    Why when Toro rosso fired Bourdais in the middlle of the champ, which was even worst, you didn´t say a word. No ethics there. And Liuzzi? I think nowadays no f1 contract gurantees anything. He landed in Force India because he was not going to be hired by anyone, and at least he drove the rest of the fisichella year and another one. His performance was not good enough, he had nothing to learn from more than four years, so what more do we have to wait in a world where you see drivers of the caliber of Hulkenberg being sidelined.

    1. rafael,

      Bourdais was suitably paid off and the negotiations were done in advance. That is the right way to do it. As to your views on Liuzzi, they are your views.

  87. Being a Lawyer and a huge motorsports fan, I´m really not sure where I stand. Of course I can´t help but be bothered by strong opinions regarding Liuzzi´s talent (or lack thereof). That´s not the point.

    He was never given a good chassis to run. Nobody would have done better. And when the car was good enough (and I don´t mean fast enough, I mean in proper work condition) he performed. If there were performance clauses they were most likely ignored by the team and not the driver in the past season.

    I´m not sure where I stand – as previously stated – because I cannot leave my heart aside to make a proper business judgement regarding this issue. It is the sport I love and it will only work when it´s run by people who love it as much as we do.

    Frank and Ron come to mind. Who the hell is Mallya? What´s his racing story and why the hell being a successful businessmen allows him to run a Formula 1 team? It might just be a personal thing, but I could think of a handful of drivers (at least) more worthy of a McLaren seat than David Coulthard and yet there he stood for many seasons.

    I´d like Tonio to stay. He´s a true sport and, if dumped, should be paid whatever fines are set forth in his contract. Another penalty for acting in bad faith should be added to Mr. Mallya´s account. Regardless of what is set forth in the Agreement, bad faith is not allowed and should be punished accordingly.

  88. I think in reality all a contract means is you are entitled to compensation – not to be kept in the cockpit. I like the majority of posters here feel sorry for Liuzzi. However I think the choice of di Resta over Hulkenberg for the drive seat shows FI do have some plan/loyalty.

  89. A couple of points – all of you who think this is an acceptable way to treat a driver should be ashamed.

    This is a disgraceful way for a driver with a contract to be treated, and Tonio does not deserve this.

    Please don’t give me the “it’s business” line….I’m in business and both my company and the companies I deal with all honour contracts fully.

    Secondly – for Joe. I always read your blog and consider you one of the finest journalists in F1 over the 25 years I have spent avidly following F1. I am often embarrassed by the cheap shots and argumentative comments made by people who should know that you know a hell of a lot more than they do.
    I’m sure you realise that there are many thousands of people out there who thoroughly enjoy what you write, and only a comparative few who feel they constantly need to demonstrate how much more they know about F1 then you do!

  90. WoW! Alot of emotions and accusations flying around on this posting!…lol I’ll just sit back and watch this one play itself out.

    But I would like to say that the funniest comment so far was Joe’s at; “Kalim, Your opinion is utter garbage.” that one gave me a good laugh!

    And just to give my own 2 cents into this melting pot; if contracts were worthless and didn’t mean anything, then somebody should tell Frank Williams cause he knew he had Button locked into a $25 million dollar penalty when Jenson reneged on his own deal to not go to Williams. If a contract was so worthless, then Frank wouldn’t have gotten his big payoff.

  91. Vijay Mallaya has shown his true colours, do we really want another rich business man looking to make a quick buck in f1?

  92. I have always thought that Liuzzi was underrated but I do think he has had his chance. I am more pleased that di Resta is getting a drive than I am displeased about Liuzzi getting shafted. Its a shame Hulkenberg hasn’t got a race day seat too – I’d have given him Sutil’s place

  93. Luiz Fernando

    Coulthard was a good solid driver and no more than that, but he was the best team mate for Hakkinen. For proof of this look back at any 90’s qualifying session.The usual scenario would be Mika goes out and does a couple of runs and is slow. He would then come back in, put Davids settings on his car and put it on pole! It was all about balance and having the best driver pairing, McLaren knew that if there was a title in the offing then Mika had the speed to win it, but they also knew he couldn’t set a car up for toffee and David was very good at that.
    Your bang on about Mallya by the way, Who the hell is this guy, and why does he insist on sitting on the pit wall during races? Whats he doing there, is he going to work out pit strategies like Todt used to? I don’t think so.

  94. Joe,
    What will you say about Fisi being let go by Malya for Ferrari when team started its uprise and Fisi being the lead driver?
    My point is, don’t just see one side of the coin, Liuzzi got 25 odd chances and hardly converted handful.

    1. Vikky & everyone

      I have answered this same comment about 50 times now and I have decided that I am no longer going to respond to further rants about my support of Liuzzi. It was not about Liuzzi, it was not anti-di Resta. It was about ethics, or rather the lack of them.
      I am sorry if you cannot understand the difference between the three issues.

      I am sure that Fisichella had a contractual clause that allowed him to leave if he got an offer from a top team. Most drivers in middle-ranking teams have such clauses.

  95. Thanks for that Joe, That helps me get a better understanding of you, with me being a relative newcomer to your column 🙂

    To be fair to FI this was before their time but I note the dentist’s name pops up..Now there could an interesting opportunity for an discussion on ethical F1 business practices -allegedly!

    We all hoped after EJ and the ups and down of the Russian Mafia that the team were at last on a sound financial footing and the ‘hand to mouth’ days were over…Sadly that doesn’t appear to be the case…It’s difficult to say how the business is run without the inevitable cry of Racist but the money side seems firmly run from India these days and the UK accounts dept possibly mere filing clerks. Over here, from outward appearances, they do appear to struggle to get money in and they certainly play the “wait till the bailiffs arrive” game far too often.. However if anyone think VJM (or Mol) earn out of F1 they are possibly wide of the mark. At least, at this stage of the business model…(or perhaps those that do have close access to the real accounts?)

    I do wonder at times where his (VJM)loyalty lies, or more to the point how high up FI is on his priorities against such things as his expanding car/house collection, his lifestyle and more importantly the Cricket team..I believe he has visited the HQ on just a handful of occasions and the wind tunnel once. Doesn’t sound like someone committed to F1/FI?

    All that aside, of course they shouldn’t roll Luizzi over without the necessary compensation and not just the financial compensation either as I suspect they are shitting on his lifelong dream in the process…

  96. Welcome to the world of Formula1 were only the best of the best survive. Look at what happend to Hulkenberg this year, Williams did not retain him. I don’t understand the reason why do you vouch/sympathize so much for Liuzzi, in my opinion Hulkenberg & Di Resta are miles ahead of him. Mallya is a smart man he obviously retained Sutil because of his experience he brings in and Di Resta & Hulkenberg are top class drivers.

  97. Re: the hospitality firm . . .

    I am not sure whether the hospitality firm are in action against FI in Germany.

    But the case brought in London was FI claiming against the hospitality firm.

    Which sounds a bit rich, i.e. jurisdiction hopping, on FI’s part.

    Sorry guys, i’ve not read a thing, except an old article in German which i may not have understood clearly, that the hospitality firm were suing, in 2009, and the court there may (was not clear even in the article i remember) have wanted a bond for the amount in question.

    At a much higher level, German law does get settled in England. The case of note is Sotheby’s vs. State of Gotha. It’s not that long since the Hansa had their own compound, a state within a state, within the City of London, which is still not England, legally.

    To sort this one out, we need someone to go to the local magistrates in Germany – their systems are really not linked, despite good technical efforts – and find out if a claim was made against FI there, in approx. ’09.

    Up in the air. But it is not uncommon for someone to counter sue in England, to try to shake off a foreign debt. I’m not saying that is the case here. Just sorry VJM makes me think that way about him.

    – john

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