After much speculation it has been announced that Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella has been released from his contract with Force India in order to substitute the recuperating Felipe Massa at Ferrari for the remainder of the 2009 season. It was recently announced that Felipe would not return to racing this year and that Scuderia Ferrari wanted their Brazilian star to be fully fit before climbing inside the cockpit again. For Fisichella, this is a dream come true.
Ferrari are often considered to be the ultimate Formula One team, especially for young Italians growing up and worshiping those who pilot the cars around the circuits. Fisichella is no different and has not hidden his desire to drive for the marque, an opportunity that heightened after Massa crashed during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. While Felipe is said to be recovering well, Ferrari do not want to place him back in the car until he is 100% fit and ready, and for the past two races, they have been fielding their long-time test driver, Luca Badoer.
However, with a strong car after having developed it tirelessly during the year, Ferrari are starting to make some headway in the constructors championship. Although they will not take the title this year, they do have their eyes set on their current P3 position, and do not want the resurgent McLaren team to take this away from them. In order to secure this position though, the team needs two strong drivers, and from the results of the European and Belgian Grands Prix, it would appear that Badoer is not the driver to have. Although the Italian test driver did well when you consider he hadn’t driven a 2009-spec. car until he arrived in Valencia, and hadn’t raced in decade, the team need someone who can at least score some points alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception. No one should stand in the way of this. Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India. Vijay Mallya.
Mallya stated that the phone call did not come until yesterday (Wednesday), despite speculation being rife in Belgium at the weekend and continuing this week. Fisichella’s superb podium at Spa Francorchamps undoubtedly helped seal the deal, the points earned being Force India’s first and Giancarlo’s first podium in about three years. Mallya also stated that there were no commercial implications resulting from the deal, mentioned after it was speculated that a leftover debt from when the team ran Ferrari engines may have been excused as part of the agreement.
We would like to stress that we have not agreed any financial settlement with Ferrari. This agreement has been made in good faith and for the good of Giancarlo and the sport in general. A competitive Italian driver in a Ferrari for Monza is a positive story for Formula One, which can only help raise the sport’s profile in these difficult times.
We would like to thank Giancarlo for all his help over the past one and a half seasons and for delivering us our first World Championship points last weekend. He has been an integral part of the team and we owe him a great deal for his input behind the scenes and performance out on track. We wish him all the best for the future. Vijay Mallya.
Mallya’s point about this being a positive step for Formula One as a whole once again reiterates the team owner’s belief in the sport, Mallya having given his permission to Brawn to run with Mercedes-Benz engines this year after he secured a technical partnership deal prior to 2009. However, his words also imply that Fisichella was not a part of the team’s ongoing future, stating that this deal secures Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari. Interestingly, and perhaps something has been lost in translation (either literally or in the way it comes across), Mallya’s words also suggest Fisichella will be with Ferrari for longer than the remainder of this year, although if this were to happen it would almost certainly be in a test driver role. Unless of course, Raikkonen has already moved on and Fernando Alonso is not able to move over for 2010.
Either way though, Ferrari will benefit greatly from having a driver in the second car who has actually driven and raced a 2009-spec. car and is generally considered more of a talent than Luca Badoer. With three race wins under his belt from his time spent at Jordan and Renault, Fisichella should be able to accrue a few points and maybe even some podiums. If all things work out well, the Italian may even be able to clinch a victory before the season climaxes on the final lap at Abu Dhabi in November.
I am very grateful to Vijay Mallya for allowing me this opportunity to drive for the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team.
It is true that it has always been an ambition to do this, and for Vijay to have allowed it to become a reality is very generous.
I hope in my turn I have helped Force India grow up and be on the right path to achieve their own ambitions. They are now a very competitive team and I wish them all the very best. Giancarlo Fisichella.
We have chosen Fisichella because we can expect him to make a valuable contribution in this final part of the season.
Giancarlo has shown, throughout his long career, that he is fast and competitive and we are therefore proud to be able to run an Italian driver in our home race.
We wish to thank Luca Badoer for the team spirit he demonstrated in these circumstances: it is a shame he was unable to show his true worth in these last two races, tackled under conditions which anyone would have found difficult. Stefano Domenicali.
So nice words all around, and Vijay Mallya even wished Giancarlo his best wishes for the future. There has been no announcement as to who will fill the vacant seat at Force India, although it is expected that test driver and former Scuderia Toro Rosso pilot Vitantonio Liuzzi will make a return. It had been widely expected for the young Italian to be taking over from the elder Italian at the Silverstone-based team next year anyway, making his first return to racing since 2007.
I have long been a bit of a fan of Fisichella, ever since I saw him race well at Hockenheim in 1997, a race in which he competed in the Jordan and pushed Michael Schumacher hard. Eventually, Fisichella retired his car due to a puncture, but acknowledging a well run race, Schumacher gave Giancarlo a lift back to the pitlane after the race was completed. The immortal image of a driver astride a Formula One car at speed (Senna/Mansell esque) once again cropping up and sticking hard in the memory.
It is very pleasing to know that although his career has waned ever since he sat alongside Fernando Alonso in the Renault, and that each move the Italian made appeared to have been decided under a cloud of unlucky-ness, Fisichella should hopefully drive well at Ferrari. Having pushed Raikkonen to the chequered flag in Belgium, surely morale will be brimming and the experienced and determined pilot can continue to impress.