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Force India in a mix-up over Fisi to Ferrari
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Force India in a mix-up over Fisi to Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Aug 2009   |  6:36 pm GMT  |  37 comments

It’s rare in Formula 1 that a team gets to enjoy a moment of pure ecstasy, without something coming along to spoil it.

And so it is proving for Force India, which scored a magnificent podium from pole position in yesterday’s Belgian Grand Prix, but today is having a very public internal argument about whether its podium hero Giancarlo Fisichella is moving to Ferrari for the next race.

Fisichella was faster than Kimi Raikkonen in yesterday’s race and it was only because of the KERS on the Ferrari that the race swung away from him. The team could still have won the race if they had managed to fuel Fisi a little longer at the first stop but they fueled him to pit on the same lap as Raikkonen and any chance of jumping the Ferrari was lost.

This morning the team’s commercial director, Ian Phillips, said on BBC Radio 5 that an approach for Fisichella would be made within the next 24 hours and that team boss Vijay Mallya should expect a call.

However the team quickly issued a denial on its website, claiming that Phillips was out of order to make those comments, which “do not reflect the views of the Force India team management since he is not the designated spokesperson for the team nor is he authorised to speak to the media.

“His comments should therefore be ignored.

“We completely deny as baseless, whatever is reportedly attributed to him in reports.”

It should also be noted that Fisichella, his manager and Mallya have all maintained that the notion of him moving to Ferrari is pure speculation up to this point and that no contact has been made.

However yesterday morning on Italy’s RAI TV it was said that Fisichella would be driving at Monza, which given the relationships between the management of the two companies, may have been a preparation of the ground.

Phillips is one of F1′s great characters and one of the pillars on which modern F1 is built. He has been with the Silverstone based team through all its iterations since Eddie Jordan’s earliest days in 1991 and before that was team principal at Leyton House. In a spooky echo of yesterday’s race, Leyton House and Ivan Capelli led and ultimately scored an amazing second place at the French GP of 1990, narrowly losing out to the Ferrari of Alain Prost. That drive later earned Capelli a Ferrari drive!

Phillips has forgotten more about F1 than most people will ever know. He has close ties with Radio 5 as he has commentated on the channel for many years, either as the main colour commentator or more recently, a voice on the Friday afternoon practice sessions.

Ironically he is the member of the Force India team who speaks the most regularly to the media and is in charge of the department of which media relations is part! He is also very close to Fischella’s manager, Enrico Zanarini.

According to Autosport the team still have some payment still owing from its tenure as a Ferrari engine customer. Should they need to negotiate a release for Fisichella this would likely play a make-weight part in any deal.

Meanwhile Force India has made some bullish comments about maintaining this run of form. The team has taken a huge development step lately and with the field being so close it has moved it to the front group. At Monza, where even lower downforce will be used than at Spa, the Force India car is expected to go well. It was very fast in a straight line at Spa and it’s fuel efficient Mercedes engine will also be an advantage.

“You’re going to see us competing right near the front at every race from now on,” said team manager Andy Stevenson. “This was no fluke. Just a fast racing car with quick drivers.”

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37 Comments
  1. f1vlad says:

    Great insight, thanks Jamies. And sure is fantastic race.

    This isn’t the first time fisico showed what he can do. There were races in the past, the one that sticks out is the race where he, if I recall correctly, came second on a rubber that was essentially destroyed. And it was Benetton. Cannot recall which race it was though. If anyone knows please let me know.

  2. Kristian says:

    Fisi would love to drive a Ferrari, but what an end to the season it would be if he won a race in a Force India. Wow. If this is what F1 becomes without money-no-object manufacturers, then we better get used to hearing some different anthems on the rostrum and seeing a few surprised faces on Sunday afternoons.

  3. Steve JR says:

    Phillips suggests that the Italian fans really will be ‘throwing their chairs on the grid’ unless both of the Ferrari’s are front runners at Monza.

    It strikes me as rather silly proposition to the Italian fans who will surely realise that the borrowed Fisi who is not really their man and just a hired gun to create an otherwise false reality…I mean, supposing Hamilton was an Italian, presumably if he was then Ferrari would be wanting to borrow him until Massa returns? It’s ridiculous.

    1. BrightMinds says:

      Then you’ve clearly not been to Monza. They’re irrational, highly emotional and pretty damn physical. If Luca’s still there he’ll be heckled and have all manor of chairs/bottles/stones thrown at him!

    2. Leon Allen says:

      Totally agree Brightminds….

      At Monza logic and cool appraisal come a long way down the batting order.

      …and the tifosi would go mad to have a senior Italian driver giving it every last bullet in what will probably be his swan-song year.

      The man’s recent history would be utterly irrelevant to the average Ferrari fanatic and Fisi would be awarded the mantle so recently acquired by another descendent of latin blood whom the tifosi have taken to their hearts, the much missed and loved Felipe Massa.

      Fisi in a Ferrari at Monza…. wow ! I can hear the the roar of the crowd from here…

  4. David Hodge says:

    Everyone, myself included, keeps turning over the various scenarios. I suppose we will not know until something comes out officially. In the meantime, my 2 cents…

    It comes down to whether Fisi wants to retire as an active driver. He could jump to Ferrari, probably finish the season then be out of a drive next year. Ferrari would offer him the test place. Badoer and possibly Gene retire/leave. OR… he wants to remain racing and stays with Force India.

    Another rhetorical question concerns Liuzzi. Why could Ferrari not take him? For sure, he is race “rusty” perhaps but to be honest, Badoer was slow ten years ago and was never going to set the world alight. For sure, he has just had two of the most expensive track days in the world. Liuzzi would be faster I am sure although would he be fast enough to get in the points?

    Bottom line is that Ferrari needs a young driver programme and to place those drivers accordingly. I remember a young Red Bull driver bringing home a BMW in the points. Mr. Vettel I believe?

    1. Paul Matthews says:

      Ferrari know that Liuzzi has a Force India contract for next year, and they are being very careful to keep their “secrets” within Ferrari.

      That really limits their options: either keep Badoer, try out Gene, go with an experienced driver from another team that would be willing to commit to Ferrari for next year in some role (Fisi, Alonso) or go with a young rookie to be placed on Ferrari’s young driver programme (Bortolotti, Bianchi)

  5. silverstoned says:

    All this Fisi talk has taken on a life of its own. When and where did it start? was it with Fisi himself talking to the BBC on race morning?

    What about JP Montoya? the ideal Ferrari second driver IMO. He can win as many races as Massa, is more aggressive and has all the necessary Latin attributes.
    He liked to drive into stationary objects off the racing line on occassion. But who is fault free in F1?

    1. James Allen says:

      Started last week in Italy in Gazetta dello sport newspaper

    2. niceguyrichy says:

      fitness is a big part of F1 these days, as is weight.
      every ounce counts, and last time I saw JPM there were quite a few extra ounces….
      so, can’t see it personally.

  6. George says:

    Anyone that listens to second practice on a friday will know Phillips likes to air his opinion on things, and is wrong as often as right. Obviously this subject is closer to home for him, but I’ll take it with a pinch of salt until we get some official announcement.

  7. petrov says:

    “…only because of the KERS on the Ferrari …”

    Kimi was faster on a slower car, Ferrari was a better team with a worse car – and that’s why Ferrari and Kimi won the race and you keep saying this BS
    When media would stop doing that?

    1. James Allen says:

      Kimi himself said that the Force India car was faster, not sure why you missed him saying that.

      1. petrov says:

        I believe that the result is what counts.
        Yes, we can be polite and praise the rivals, but if Force India would be faster and worked better as a team, they would win, wouldn’t they?

      2. Matas says:

        Live timing information dosn’t support this.
        Kimi was constantly faster than Fisi in the first stint. He built a gap from 0.9s (on lap 5) to 1.9s (on lap 13). In the second stint they were evenly matched and gap fluctuated between 0.7s and 1.3s. Only in the last stint Fisi was faster and stayed within 1s all the time.

      3. tim lamkin says:

        YES…faster..but who won…the better team !

      4. Phan says:

        Keep in mind that the KERS system weighs around 30- 40kg. So is it really an advantage or disadvantage in terms of the car overall performance during a race?

        Can you explain a litte more why Renault and BMW have dropped their KERS?

        It seems to me that you always have a negative point/comment about Kimi.

        I can not wait to read your explanation.

        Best regards.

      5. Ahmad Albashrawi says:

        Well, Kimi won the race !! KERS or no KERS he won and that is due to his talent not the Ferrari being superior.

        He should be praised for his performance rather than saying his win is caused by his KERS. When Button won in Australia no one said that his win was because he had the best weapon to fight with although an average driver CAN win with the best car but will not win with KERS !!

      6. Spike says:

        I dont think petrov meant it that way. He probably meant to say that is was not KERS alone, but also Kimis supreme skill in a slower and inferior car that kept Fisi behind. And flawless pitstops of course.

        Anyway, I cant believe Fisi would go to Ferrari now that the Force India IS a faster car.

      7. Alien says:

        James. First you say: “it was only because of the KERS on the Ferrari that the race swung away from him.” Then you say: “The team could still have won the race if they had managed to fuel Fisi a little longer at the first stop but they fueled him to pit on the same lap as Raikkonen and any chance of jumping the Ferrari was lost.”

        Kimi started 6th and passed Fisi on the re-start. Yes, the KERS helped, but surely even you can acknowledge that Ferrari and Kimi did a good job and deserved to win? Kimi qualified with a lot of fuel on board and set some scorching lap times. He struggled to keep Fisi behind him, even with the KERS. He drove his heart out and it’s a bit disingenuous to say that it was just because of the KERS that he won.

      8. Dean says:

        I love it how if Kimi wins a race all the credit goes to the KERS system and he gets no credit in keeping a faster car behind him for 30+laps! meanwhile, if Hamilton wins a race, the British press instantly praise his driving abilities and hardly mention the KERS benefit. BS!

    2. George says:

      JA was totally right with what he said in the OP, the only reason Kimi won was because he was so close to Fisi after the safety car. Whether or not he would of overtaken him without KERS is pretty hard to say, but without that bunching up the Force India would have been down the road and out of sight.

  8. Simon Benedict says:

    Hi James, love the blog and your Twitter updates, great work.
    I think this is a very good lesson to Ian Phillips. He may have been at Force India in its many iterations since 1991 but he doesn’t own the team. He’s not the boss. But, boy, does he carry himself on the radio like he is. If Force India do owe money to Ferrari, Phillips’ comments will no doubt do massive damage to Vijay Mallya’s negotiating position, assuming Fisichella is part of these. Mallya seems quite a controlled person in public, so a foaming statement such as his this afternoon must have been caused by massive anger. It is interesting that you say Phillips has forgotten more about F1 than most people ever knew. Listening to his BBC radio commentary I’ve come to the opinion that the man is arrogant and ill-informed. A certain smug and lazy attitude that comes from not really having cared about the sport for years. Here’s hoping Mallya cuts him down to size. He’s soiled what should have been a great week for Force India. – Simon

    1. monktonnik says:

      I am not sure that I agree that Ian Phillips’ comments have on their own detracted from Force India’s podium, but I do agree that the tone of the statement does seem incredibly agressive. I wonder if Fisi will be the only personnel change for Force India at Monza?

  9. Pay The Piper says:

    Oooft, that kind of Press Release language normally comes stapled to a P45. Looks like Ian’s talked himself below the pencil line on Mallya’s budget-cuts.

    Last of the Summer Wine on Mogadon, as the punters now style 5Live Practice2, might be a fulltime gig from here on out.

    (And if you think Flavio’s worried about how many holes in the desert young Piquet knows about, I guess that’s nothing to how many ex-bosses will be sweating the Ian Phillips F1 memoir).

  10. Omar Kamal says:

    Why we don’t mention the KERS thing (as disadvantage – heavy weight) when the Redbull and Brawn cars win over the Ferraris and Mclarens!!

    It’s their choice not to use KERS as they see that they do better without it. So we can’t say that Kimi was just faster because of his KERS, Isn’t KERS a part of the car like the front wing, the diffuser,…..etc?

    The Ferrari was faster than Force India because of the KERS like Force India was faster than the other cars because of its aerodynamic pack or whatever…. Got my point James?

  11. Charles Kane says:

    Force India is financial troubles and would love to cash in with renting Fisi to Ferrari but I think Ferrari still will go to Monza with Badoer cos the team supports their drivers. Especially when they are having tough time.

    What it comes to the race JAs comments about the Kerrs is pure speculation. There is no way knowing how fast or slow a Ferrari without Kerrs would be with the weight distributed in optimal way.

  12. Andrew says:

    “His comments should therefore be ignored.”

    Ouch!! Poor Ian, I don’t really know what the big deal is, can someone explain? If Ian has heard that Ferrari are interested in Fisi so what? Even Fisi has not exactly been denying he would go to Ferrari, I’d be more annoyed about his “I haven’t had the phonecall YET – *hint hint*” comments if I was Vijay.

  13. F1 Kitteh says:

    I’m curious why Trulli hasn’t been mentioned as a candidate. He’s
    1. Italian
    2. Looks like Toyota wouldn’t mind letting him go, I guess like Force India doesn’t need Fisi next year (at least prior to this race..)
    3. He would at least be as fast, if not faster, than Kimi in qualy
    4. Seems he was also closer to Alonso than Fisi was
    I think he deserves a shot in a top car just for once, still remember when he almost won way back when in 97 in the Prost …

    1. Sam98 says:

      I agree. All this talk about Fisi but no mention of Trulli. To my armchair-observer eye they appear to have similar qualities;

      1. Italian
      2. Twilight of careers
      3. Solid performances with recent race experience

      Toyota has made noises about not wanting Trulli next year (surely making their intellectual property more secure?), but I can’t see why Force India would release Fisi from a potential point scoring seat for the rest of this season.

      What are we missing James?

    2. George says:

      I agree, I rate Trulli higher than Fisi. I guess it depends on whether he thinks he has a seat somewhere else for next year, if not he’d have nothing to lose by standing in at Ferrari.

  14. Arun Srini says:

    someone wrote about how ‘fashion’ team the Redbull is, for changing engines so often, it is like getting the best and pushing it to team and expecting it to win. I don’t think ferrari is like that, and also, owning to the age of the driver and the driver queue waiting outside Ferrari’s camp, its best he doesn’t go to Ferrari.

  15. Grabyrdy says:

    I don’t really see why Mallya is so upset. It sounds as if Phillipe is talking with some inside info from Ferrari – “Mallya is going to get a call”. Well, the world and his wife seemed to know that, and it doesn’t take away Mallya’s decision-making status.

    If the rumour started in the Gazzetto dello Sport, it must have come from Ferrari, testing the water. But everything has changed since last week, has it not ? This time last week, Fisi was running down the last few races of his career, and had the prospect of realising his boyhood dream of driving for Ferrari before he went. He’s talked about this in the past, so everybody knew about it.

    But now, suddenly he has one of the fastest cars on the grid, has driven a cracking race (I reckon the only reason FI didn’t win was becasue they couldn’t really believe they had such a good chance – as JA says above, if they’d fuelled Fisi longer at the first stop, he could have jumped Kimi at the second), and MIGHT have a job next year. If going to Ferrari jeopardized that, he wouldn’t go, would he ? That must be why it’s taking so long.

  16. Werewolf says:

    This sounds like Mallya is well aware that his own team’s performance for the rest of the year, which he currently believes will be strong, would be severely compromised by releasing Fisichella. Liuzzi, the likely replacement, is ring-rusty and has few miles in this year’s cars. The experience could be seen as an investment in next year but Force India needs to make hay while the sun shines, capitalize on its present performance and secure investment for 2010.

    The next question, I guess, is what about a game of musical chairs? On the back of Force India’s impressive Spa performance, could they entice another extant F1 pilot into the team to replace Fisichella? They do not, of course, have the money to ease a release the way Ferrari can.

  17. warren says:

    Never mind fisi. It has to be “the stig” in the car at monza!!

  18. Mark Williams says:

    I agee with Simon Benedict. Ian Phillips has been very silly and over stepped the line it is very noticable that he was not in Singapore and will not be in Japen. Job hunting is hard work and who will an old big mouth.

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