So why hasn’t Force India officially announced its 2011 driver line-up yet? The most logical answer is that the team cannot do so until it can figure out what it can do with Vitantonio Liuzzi, who looks increasingly on the outer at the Silverstone squad.
If the latest rumours are to be believed, the team wants to run Adrian Sutil with its test driver, Paul di Resta, and hire Williams exile Nico Hülkenberg, effectively leaving Liuzzi out in the cold.
Not so, says Liuzzi…
The Italian has a contract to race for the team in 2011, and he strongly denies any suggestions that the team has approached him with any offers of financial settlement or a deployment in the DTM championship.
“My situation is clear,” he told 422race.com. “Force India hasn’t informed me about any change and for me only the words of the team count.
“I wasn’t offered anything, as I said I haven’t spoken to Force India about anything like that,” he adamantly continued.
But Liuzzi is wise enough to know that circumstances change in Formula 1, but hinted that the letter of contract law would fall on his side.
“I’m pretty calm, because I have a very clear deal with the team for the 2011 season and if they should decide to take other routes, they know what they are facing,” he hinted.
Contractual disputes in F1 are handled by an independent body known as the Contract Recognition Board, a group consisting of four international lawyers who are appointed by the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Court of Arbitration, whose rulings are final and made without counterclaim.
The body has previously stepped in to resolve past disputes with Jenson Button during 2005 and 2006, when the Briton found himself caught in contractual disputes between BAR (later Honda) and Williams, who each felt they had a rightful claim to his services.
Should Force India or Liuzzi try to escalate the matter to the CRB, Force India will have a very difficult time proving that the Italian performed poorly enough to have his contract ripped up, and it certainly couldn’t use our end-of-season driver rankings as supporting evidence…
All jokes aside, it will be Force India’s job to then convince the CRB (and Liuzzi) that he should take a financial settlement, which won’t appeal to him at this stage of his F1 career.
Failing that, Force India could try to pay for Liuzzi to drive at another team, but the only outfit still with vacancies in its driver roster is Hispania Racing, which Liuzzi would rightly argue is hardly a comparable transfer.
Force India could well be cementing a reputation for itself as a team that gets itself into legal strife, and for not succeeding in such cases either.
First there was the legal dispute with the Italian company Aerolab, whom it had to pay some $1.5 million (plus damages) for “serious and persistent” breaches of its contract with the windtunnel provider.
Then came the legal dispute with Etihad Airways and the Aldahar construction group, whom it sued (unsuccessfully after appeal) alleging breach of contract, claiming that both Middle Eastern companies had abandoned their sponsorship deals with the team, which originated when the outfit was owned by Spyker.
Third time’s a charm?