Ferrari line up Liuzzi for key role

While the rest of the Grand Prix world has been looking at Formula One and Formula Three drivers as candidates to fill the remaining seats for 2005, the Ferrari chief, Jean Todt, has held secret talks with the Italian former karting world champion Vitantonio Liuzzi and is said to see him as a long-term replacement for Michael Schumacher.

While the rest of the Grand Prix world has been looking at Formula One and Formula Three drivers as candidates to fill the remaining seats for 2005, the Ferrari chief, Jean Todt, has held secret talks with the Italian former karting world champion Vitantonio Liuzzi and is said to see him as a long-term replacement for Michael Schumacher.

Liuzzi, 23, beat the world champion at Kerpen in 2001 when he cemented his karting title, and has dominated the International F3000 Championship this season with a record six wins in seven races. One more will draw him level with the career bests of Formula One's Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld. Todt has been impressed with Liuzzi's driving and personality.

Insiders at Ferrari say Todt and Schumacher have watched Liuzzi's every move this season. Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are contracted to Ferrari until the end of 2006, but they may offer Liuzzi a test drive for 2005.

Alternatively, they might use their special relationship with Peter Sauber's team, to whom they supply engines and technical input, to let him cut his teeth there next year as the replacement for Giancarlo Fisichella.

At the weekend, Schumacher admitted that if he had to drive past another accident involving his brother Ralf, as he did in Indianapolis in June, he would seriously consider retiring early.

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