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Force India’s reaction to Fisi’s Ferrari move
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Force India’s reaction to Fisi’s Ferrari move
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Sep 2009   |  5:27 pm GMT  |  55 comments

Force India say that they released Giancarlo Fisichella to Ferrari with no commercial terms involved, for the good of the sport. There were rumours that the team still owed some money from its lease of engines last season, which may have been written off as part of the deal.
Picture 26

After their slap-down of commercial director Ian Phillips on Monday over comments that Force India could expect a call to release Fisichella within 24 hours, team principal Vijay Mallya confirmed that the approach was made on the timetable Phillips suggested.

“Giancarlo and his management team approached me yesterday with the proposal from Ferrari, ” said Mallya on Wednesday. “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.

‘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.

‘For Force India, this sport is a team effort and removing one part, even a major one, will not significantly affect our performance. The competitiveness of the team seen in Belgium was a result of hard work in the factory and wind tunnel and we have further developments coming for the final races, so we are confident this momentum can be sustained. We are now looking forward to a strong finish to the season.’

It is the right thing to do. It would have been wrong to stand in his way and he did after all bring the team their first ever points finish. Force India probably didn’t have anything for him for next year anyway so by making the switch now he gets to race a Ferrari and secure a reserve driver role for the team next season, so staying part of the Ferrari family.

Force India expect to be as competitive in Monza as they were in Spa, which could mean Fisichella looking at the rear wing of his old car in the race. The team has made dramatic gains in aerodynamic efficiency in recent weeks and as the margins are so small in F1 today, a big step is enough to move a car right up the grid.

Ferrari, in contrast, has stopped development on its 2009 car, but the Monza aerodynamics pack is a one-off, with very low wing levels and as Ferrari will have planned to make a good impression at its home Grand Prix in what has been a disappointing season, you can be sure that they will have dedicated quite a bit of resource to the Monza package.

One final point on this move; Fisi has never been a number one driver in his career and consequently has never really been in the spotlight. It is good that, for this moment at least, he gets the chance to be the centre of attention.

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55 Comments
  1. Kristian says:

    Let’s not forget that Fisi has a few new things to learn before he is up to speed in a Ferrari. He’ll be on the simulator every day to learn the steering wheel, the proper buttons for the start sequence and the dynamics of KERS. But it won’t be until he starts running laps in Friday practice that he’ll be able to get use to the different dynamics of braking with a KERS car. I hope that Fisi hasn’t made a classic Fisi call and end up at Ferrari when it would have been best to stay put and win a race with a quick Force India. If we’re wishing, how about Fisi’s giant smile on the top step with Liuzzi and Sutil grinning like madmen on the second and third step? Would make this the craziest F1 season ever.

    1. Kristian says:

      Also, why all the fuss about manufacturers leaving F1? We need more billionaire tycoons who understand sport rather than multinational companies who understand marketing. Yes, Mr. Mateschitz and Mr. Mallya put their brands on their car, but they also are petrol heads.

      1. David Turnedge says:

        Hear, hear!

  2. Howard Hughes says:

    James, a question if I may… the whole time I was reading this article I was thinking of Fisi vs Ralf, given that they served their rookie years together at Jordan in 97 and generally had the measure of each other.

    Ralf went on to have an arguably much more successful career than GF – twice the number of wins, more high-profile peaks and troughs (Monaco Pole, then horrid accidents), at one stage drifting towards WDC contention in, I think, 2003 after back-to-back wins… Even F1 Racing mag had him pegged as future Champion on a cover from 1999 when he utterly decimated Zanardi’s F1 career…

    My question? How come now, Fisi has endured in the sport and indeed seems like a perfectly natural choice for Ferrari supersub, when even if Ralf had soldiered on at Force India instead, and scored a surprising pole and 2nd, the idea of the Scuderia calling on him would have seemed laughable to his (many) detractors…

    Why do you think this perception of GF as quality and Ralf as pretty useless has developed?

    1. monktonnik says:

      I think that Ralf had some pretty typical rookie crashes and the start of his career.

      Also Fisi is a nice guy, and that still counts for something in F1.

    2. Werewolf says:

      I’m obviously guessing here but as you’re question – admittedly addressed to James – is about perception, here’s mine. Fisichella has remained generally consistent and is seen, perhaps, as a reliable pair of hands from which to take solid results. On best days, he can also be very good indeed. Furthermore, he has hidden beneath a relatively low profile.

      Ralf Schumacher, on the other hand, has had a much higher profile, not just on account of his name but because of some perhaps overly ambitious statements, which has drawn attention to his highs and lows. This has accentuated his long term inconsistency. It is probably also fair to say he peaked a few years ago now.

      1. Martin Collyer says:

        Yes, Fisi should be a safe pair of hands indeed.

        Ralf, on the other hand, has not driven an F1 car for nearly two years now and would surely suffer similar problems to Luca Badoer.

        To the same extent as Luca? Perhaps not, but does anyone know if Mercedes would be willing to release him?

        In fact, this whole debate about replacing Luca Badoer has been dominated by the idea that ANY contract can be cancelled.

        Examples, Renault will release Alonso early, Trulli can walk away from Toyota early because he hasn’t been offered a drive for next year yet, Kubica can walk away from BMW because of their withdrawal.

        Fortunately, Force India are able to release Fisi, they must have a ‘plan B’ presumably involving Liuzzi, it doesn’t follow that any or all of the above drivers would have been similarly treated.

  3. HBT says:

    “Fisi has never been a number one driver in his career”. I thought he was very much the Number 1 driver to Jensons No. 2 at Benetton for the 2001 season, but I may be being slightly pedantic, it was an absolute hound of a car after all.

    1. Anthony says:

      And I think Fisi es the No. 1 at Force India

      isnt he?

      1. James Allen says:

        Is he? His name always appears second, after Sutil in all their press statements. Sutil is car no 20, Fisi is 21.

  4. reason42 says:

    So who takes Fisi’s seat?

  5. Grabyrdy says:

    Surely Fisi was number one at Renault in 2007 after Alonso left. And isn’t (wasn’t) he number one (de facto if not de jure) at Force India ?

    Given that we now know that he’s retiring at the end of the year, I’m really chuffed for him to have this swansong. And it’s pleasing that Liuzzi has the chance to show what he can do in a decent car. He’s pretty useful too.

  6. Red Kimi says:

    Congrats to Fisi… Ferrari should hold on to 3rd now with a little luck.

  7. Lewis Jones says:

    James said: ‘One final point on this move; Fisi has never been a number one driver in his career and consequently has never really been in the spotlight’

    Benetton 2001 and Renault 2007? And of course Force India currently.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but it just smacks of a bit of lazy writing, which is a particular bugbear of mine. Otherwise, has been excellent coverage.

    1. James Allen says:

      I mean in the sense that he is not considered one of the leading drivers in the field

      1. Nicollers says:

        I was happy to see Fisi hoon it around Spa, but why hasn’t he done this throughout his career? He’s had decent cars in the past, but always needed a gee up from his pit crew. I don’t think James’s writing is lazy, I think Fisi is to be frank. He’s never pushed when it mattered and in my view is a number 2 driver. Let’s be honest, this was one good race out of about 200. I think we need to see how he gets on in the Ferrari before we can make any judgement on his new found fame. Oh and Lewis Jones, is Fisi now number 1 at Ferrari??

  8. Cliff says:

    Well done to Fisi, I think that it’s great that he got the drive. The only sour point for me was the public put down given to Ian Philips when he confirmed that an offer would be made to Fisi. Maybe his timing was out, but he proved to be correct. From an outsider looking in, he seems like a decent bloke, so I don’t understand why they chose this approach as opposed to taking him to one side and having a word.
    James,
    Will this put a strain on the relationship between Ian Philips and Vijay Mallya?

    1. James Allen says:

      Both have thick skins….

    2. **Paul** says:

      Ian Philips is great, I really enjoy his commentary as well.

  9. " for sure " says:

    I wish Fisi well, but it would have been nice to have seem him stay loyal to the team that he has worked hard with, that has supported him, and which is now showing such promise.

    Such is the lure of Ferrari.

    Vijay’s statement shows great sporting spirit, something Ferrari should take note of and try to emulate once in a while.

  10. Carl M says:

    Be like 2005 all over again, with Kimi pulling off overtakes on Fisichella. This will show ferrari the shear speed of the 2007 world champ in an average car. Good luck Fisi, bag plenty of 4-8th positions.

    1. Michael C says:

      unfortunately for Fisi I fear you are absolutely right. The ‘washed up’ Kimi didnt look too slow last week did he

  11. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    James,

    McLaren and Ferrari are going to own Monza, if only for KERS. It’s going to mean absolutely everything down the straightaways. The fact that most of the corners are slow chicanes furthermore plays to the strengths of each car, and there are only three mid-speed corners requiring some downforce. (And they’re not serial, like they are in Spa, so they don’t really require that much downforce.)

  12. Lady Snowcat says:

    Not sure that the drivers alone will give Ferrari 3rd place given that the McLaren is looking far stronger generally for the remaining races….

    However no-one can argue that Fisi won’t do better than the hapless Luca….

    I just hope and pray that Fisi’s dream move doesn’t turn into the nightmare that Luca’s did….

    I still have a suspicion that Michael was behind Luca’s foolhardy promotion…. and call me stupid but I think it was Luca’s performance against Michael in those few days of potential comeback that led to the suggestion…. and that says all you need to know about why Michael has gone very very cold on a return lately….

    1. James Allen says:

      Well you have a point – you can’t argue with Raikkonen’s 24 points in three races, but the McLaren should fly at Singapore and Abu Dhabi. So I guess it comes down to whether Fisi or Kovalainen does the better job in the second car.

      1. Filipe says:

        Fisi or Kova? Poor McLaren doesn’t have a chance…

  13. Amritraj says:

    Well finally Ferrari seem to have taken a correct decision this year, though at an avoidable expense of being completely ruthless towards Badoer. I hope they use the same rational thinking to retain Kimi instead of Massa to partner with Alonso. But you never know, Ferrari off late have been making some strange decisions.

    One question here James. Why are they relieving Badoer off the position of a test driver? Is it something Badoer wanted, something Ferrari had already planned for, or the aftermath of Badoer’s string of dismal performances behind the F60?

    1. James Allen says:

      He had no deal in place for 2010 and hoped that the supersub role would secure it for him, I guess. It backfired badly on all concerned

    2. **Paul** says:

      “being completely ruthless towards Badoer”

      If that were the case they’d have replaced him after Valencia. I think Ferrari were more than fair, I bet if it was Flav’s team the guy wouldn’t have set foot in Belgium!

  14. Cabby says:

    Everybody is happy, this is lovely great PR stuff, wonder what happenend behing closed doors, Vijah is as tough as they make them.

  15. Yo says:

    I am really sorry for Force India. Sutil was not a match for Fisichella in Spa, will he or Liuzzi be able to get the most out of the car in Monza?

  16. Chuck says:

    James,

    what’s your take in this sentence from Force India’s statement?

    “Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari”

    1. James Allen says:

      See elsewhere – it’s a reserve driver role

  17. ade says:

    “the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari” – what does this mean? Nobody seems to have picked up on this little piece of the press release.
    .
    Surely the remaining 5 races aren’t considered “long term”?
    Will Fisi get the second seat next to Alonso?
    Will he become the new Luca Badoer?
    What does it mean? James? Anyone?

    1. James Allen says:

      Reserve driver from 2010.

      1. ade says:

        Thanks James.

        So was Fisi out of contract for 2010?

  18. PaulL says:

    James, Fisi said he was keen to go on racing next year.. but you’re suggesting these 5 races at Ferrari will now be his last?

  19. Christopher Snowdon says:

    As a Force India fan I just want to congratulate Fisi on his move to Ferrari and thank him for his hard work and awesome Spa weekend, almost as good as it gets. James two quick questions?

    1. Force Indias prospects for Monza?

    2. Do you think this move puts another stumbling block for those chasing the title?

  20. silverstoned says:

    How can Fisi give up what we are told is a possible [or even near certain] win at Monza with Force India? Does he know it’s all hype for sponsors’ ears maybe?
    Lets hope he does well at Ferrari. But I hope Ferrari will not rally round GF to the detriment of Kimi in the way they did for Massa. They need to put everything behind the Kimster now I believe: on his present form and the way the WDC is split 4 ways with no clear favourite I’m certain that Kimi can wind up 3rd or 2nd overall.
    Even without new parts for the car.
    Long shot, but not impossible.

  21. Werewolf says:

    I am very pleased for Fisichella and wish him all the best for his tenure. A super way to the end the long career of a respected driver.

    The timing for Force India is, however, a shame. I admit to being unconvinced either way by Liuzzi but, whatever his true potential, his fundamental lack of current experience can only be a disadvantage at a time when Force India need to capitalize. All the more reason for applauding Mallya’s sporting decision (even though I suspect there is a little Ferrari ‘gratitude’ around somewhere).

  22. Nico says:

    Apologies James, I’m still a bit shell shocked by this news, but you were on the money all along.

    Nico.

  23. Colm says:

    This is the most interesting year in F1 in a long, long time. Pity there arn’t more than 5 races left, Fisi might surprise.

  24. Pete Harris says:

    Good for Fisi, and hopefully for Tonio … this season has certainly thrown up more than a few surprises.

    Also:

    ‘We would like to stress that we have not agreed any financial settlement with Ferrari.’ … this to me suggests that while one has not been agreed, some form of settlement will be, though perhaps not involving money changing hands.

    I honestly don’t believe Force India would have let Fisi go to Ferrari without expecting something in return and getting some kind of understanding that it will be.

    Thoughts?

    1. Cabby says:

      Maybe Ferrari will give them a new motorhome, Vijah has some trouble there lately…;-)

      Many people assume Ferrari will write off outstanding payments from the engine deal.

      Vijah could also be glad to have one driver less to pay, given he has someone waiting he can pay less or even brings money.

      Maybe Fisis contract allowed him to leave under certain conditions, especially if payments weren’t forthcoming, which I would not exclude.

      Or Vijah gets a nice red Ferrari for Christman from Luca….

  25. William McCone says:

    I just hope Fisi can handle the pressure. Im more confident for his test driver role than him helping to secure 3rd place.

    Badoer has to go from his test driver role. How reliable can feedback be when you aren’t able to push the car to “its” limits but only your own. The knowledge Fisi will bring about the current cars will be far more valuble for next season…maybe he knows some McLaren secrets he can bring too!

  26. Finn says:

    Did Fisi finish 2nd at Spa so that he could get the Ferrari seat?

    1. " for sure " says:

      Perhaps more interesting is whether Ferrari would have been interested in Fisi without their recent improvement?

      Somehow I think not.

  27. adonis says:

    Why do you say that Fisi has never been a number one driver in his carreer??
    He was definitely no 1 at Benetton, where he was paid ridiculous money back in 1998 and up to 2001 and he was no 1 at Sauber too in 2004, where he took a solid bunch of points, outclassing a certain Felipe Massa.
    As for being in the spotlight, I still remember Peter Windsor, commenting at the young “F1 Racing” then, on his duels with Ralph Shumacher in 1997 and being totally in love with him. Fisi had his chances and I like him a lot. However, he was never focused enough to achieve what his talent could have provided him.
    He rather is the stereotype of the average gifted greek soccer player who goes like that: “I have loads of talent, have a nice contract with -say- Olympiakos, have made huge gains compared to the past, train modestly, don’t get very tired, have my family and friends here, have fun and eat pizza occasionally, so why go to Real Madrid and die trying to prove myself?? Life is good as it is, thank you very much”…”

  28. Jon says:

    James-

    Just wondering if you could do a post re. taking over the post race interviewing of the three top drivers? How did it happen, what is it like to do etc.

    A general post on what you get up to over a race weekend would also be really interesting.

    Keep up the good work…

  29. john g says:

    “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.”

    =

    This agreement has been made using a convenient cover of appearing good for the sport and for Force India. We have come to a financial settlement with Ferrari.

    why stress this point unless it was an issue. columbo wouuld be asking questions (just one thing mr mallya… i never mentioned any financial settlement)

  30. Arun Srini says:

    Why would someone want to sabotage their career knowing they’d only be no.2 and test driver next season? Force India was becoming a better team. Bad move!! Feel sorry for Fisi.

  31. Shane says:

    I think Fisi is regarded in terms of speed very highly in F1, and did, in reality, run Alonso close at Renault, he was only ever really a tenth or two off him the majority of the time. What Giancarlo proved in those two years is that he chokes under pressure, lacks consistency and is relatively poor at racing wheel to wheel at the front (See Alonso, Heidfeld, Button etc.). He’s proved before and since that he is a very quick, and most of the time a reliable driver.

    Also, if Ferrari do indeed have this interesting dilemma of having three drivers under contract for two seats next year, Fisi will provide Montezemelo and Domenicali with a true yardstick on their current drivers relative performance to Alonso, it would be unfair to date back further to his Sauber days with Massa, I’m sure you’d agree it’s safe to say the Felipe Massa of today has come a long long way since he was trumped by Fisi in 04.

    Above all, it’s a nice story for Ferrari, for Fisi, he will bring home hopefully for them the points they need to secure 3rd in the championship, and what a way to finish (probably) a very fine F1 career.

  32. thanx for sharing to the netiziens

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