With Fernando Alonso’s future still not set in stone, potential Formula One refugees are looking elsewhere for drives for the 2008 season. Flavio Briatore, Renault’s boss, has stated that his team would have “new drivers” for next year, intimating that both Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella will either be demoted to a testing role or will leave altogether. Kovalainen looks good for the McLaren seat, but he faces competition from Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil. Interestingly though, both went on record earlier in the week stating that there futures lie with their current teams, Williams and Force India respectively.
An announcement earlier from Force India states that Fisichella will test with the team in Spain next week, thus strongly suggesting that Renault have allowed him to do this as it is in everybody’s best interests. Alongside Fisichella at the Jerez test will be ex-Toyota driver and former Grand Prix winner Ralf Schumacher. Schumacher stated earlier in the season that he was in talks with various teams about a 2008 drive, but his primary target, Scuderia Toro Rosso, ended up plumping with Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais. Still looking for a seat, Force India have said that they will offer the German a run in their Ferrari-powered car next week.
Although the former-Spyker team have undoubtedly received a huge investment from new owner and Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya, I’m not so sure they have the cash to pay for both drivers, but possible partnering one experienced racer with Sutil would help the team. Mike Gascoyne, who has worked with both Fisichella and Schumacher in the past has been slowly progressing the team and has spoken of the squad taken a step further next year. However, in all fairness most teams say that at this time of year, even the front-runners.
Driving for a young dynamic team with high ambitions is a good opportunity, but at the moment it is just one test to see how we get on working together, and whether this is possible. I think I can help the team with its development programme but we will see. Ralf Schumacher.
Whilst no drivers have been officially confirmed by Renault, the team has given me permission to explore other options. I was invited to test with Force India F1 Team at Jerez and I was very happy to accept it. Giancarlo Fisichella.
Bernie Ecclestone, on the other hand, thinks the pair could be making a mistake by moving from topish teams to a back-of-the-grid hopeful.
Both were at decent teams for some time when they should have been doing better jobs. They should think about whether it is intelligent to change to small teams. Look at Renault. If in 2005 and 2006 they would have had only Fisichella in the team, they would not have known that they had a car good enough to win the championship. Bernie Ecclestone.
Also driving the Force Indias next week will be Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi, who drove a few laps each at the last test held at Circuit de Catalunya. Another former Toyota employee, Franck Montagny, will also drive a Force India, hoping for a return to the grid after competing with Super Aguri for a few races in their inaugural season. Already contracted testers Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez are expected to take part as well, forming a impressive line up of test drivers for the squad. I can only assume that Fisi, Ralf, Franck, Klien and Tonio aren’t being paid for this work.
Christian Klien and Giancarlo Fisichella will run on Wednesday 4th, while Ralf Schumacher and Vitantonio Liuzzi will run on Thursday 5th.
So, should Force India be offering Ralf and Fisi lifelines, or should the pair gracefully retire from the sport? Have your say in the comments below.