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.
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.