Fisichella: Grumpy & Old, But Still Quick?

Fisichella: Grumpy & Old, But Still Quick?

This post was originally written for and published at vee8. Recently, the site’s owner Duncan decided to close the domain, and through a random Google-search I rediscovered the article and ultimately decided to post a copy here. To keep the post out of the current archives, I have edited the date to match vee8, which coincidentally is exactly two years ago to this day.

Over at BlogF1, I have a series going whereby some guests have written for me. The idea was for some of Formula One’s most talented writers to discuss how they see the driver pairings in the top four teams fair this upcoming season. And before you all ask, vee8’s very own Duncan is due on Monday.

But one of the pairings has not been discussed, and in the spirit of getting guests to post at BlogF1, I thought I’d return the favour and talk a little here. The team is Force India and the drivers in question are Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil. One driver is in the twilight of his career, the other is just starting out. A hot-blooded Italian vs. a quiet and controlled German. Throw in a car that is meant to be slow, but has shocked a few in testing, and the recipe for fireworks is all set. All we need now is a spark…

So why am I keen to see how Fisichella and Sutil work things out this year? Well, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a fan of the Italian. I remember his first full-time season back in 1997, notably the German Grand Prix where he ran Michael Schumacher ragged for a short while. Since then though, Fisichella has always found himself in the wrong car at the wrong time. A move to Benetton should have been his breakthrough, but the team were on the decline. Four years of rebuilding the car in to something that resembled a point-scorer and Fisichella was sent back to Jordan so Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso could collect the glory. The Sauber move was hoped to become a stepping stone to Ferrari, but alas it didn’t happen. And then Fisichella found himself back at Benetton, since renamed Renault, and partnered with the fast Alonso.

Having had his reputation of demoralising team mates shattered by the Spaniard, Fisichella has found solace at Force India, a team that should learn from the experience of the wise campaigner. Giancarlo can build the team around him, develop relationships and hopefully push the squad further and harder, much like he did in the Benetton-days.

Only two things stand in his way: The car and his team mate.

If the team cannot build a decent car then Fisichella’s hard work won’t be rewarded. If new team owner Vijay Mallya doesn’t employ the right minds, then Force India will simply remain at the back, regardless of who’s driving.

The other obstacle, Adrian Sutil, could potentially do a lot of damage though. Fisichella is known to be fast, especially in comparison to his team mate. Ignoring the fact that Alonso comprehensively beat him in 2005 and 2006, and that Heikki Kovalainen beat him last time around, Fisichella has similarly destroyed many a team mate himself. Wurz and Button have both felt his wrath, Sato and Firman are two more and as recently as 2004, Massa got a good thrashing as well.

But Sutil is pretty quick as well. At least, I reckon so. For sure, he’s yet to score a point, lead a race or challenge a world champion. Running at the top of the practice tables in Monaco while it was pouring with rain impressed me, and I think he has the talent needed to progress well in the sport, even though it may cost Fisichella dearly. If Sutil, in equal equipment, ends up finishing 2008 ahead of his team mate, then I fear the writing’s on the wall for the Fizz. Four years straight would probably be too much for any team boss to take. The fireworks resulting from such pressures could be very interesting to watch, but I don’t think we’re going to see any pops, bangs or whizzes this year.

I’m hoping that Giancarlo can do a Coulthard and find his fighting spirit again. I’m hoping he and Sutil have a great year and battle their way up to the midfield. Fisichella hasn’t got much time left in the sport; he’ll never become world champion now and even further wins are probably out of the window. But if he plays his cards right, focuses on driving and avoids the political shenanigans, he could very easily join DC in the grumpy, old, but still quick club.

This post was originally written for and published at vee8.

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