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Why a fired up Fisichella is the right choice for Ferrari
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Why a fired up Fisichella is the right choice for Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Sep 2009   |  4:20 pm GMT  |  50 comments

Ferrari has decided to put its faith in Giancarlo Fisichella for the remainder of the season, replacing Luca Badoer.

Ferrari want lots more of this. (Darren Heath)

Ferrari want lots more of this. (Darren Heath)


It is an ideal scenario for the 36 year old from Rome, who has been in Formula 1 since the 1996 season. He has tried before to get involved with Ferrari, but this cameo appearance of five races at the end of the season will give him a chance to live the dream and drive a Ferrari at Monza next week.

“I’m in seventh heaven,” Fisichella said on the Ferrari website. “I still can’t believe it – that the dream of my life comes true, and I want to thank Ferrari and Chairman Luca di Montezemolo.

“Over the last week some really incredible things happened to me: the pole position and then second place at Spa and now I’m called by Ferrari to race the last five races of the season for them.

“I’ll give my best to recompense the Scuderia for this great opportunity they gave me: I know that it won’t be easy, but I’ll give it everything to gain the best possible results.”

With the news that the injured Felipe Massa is out for the rest of the season, the management at Ferrari knew that they had to go for a driver who could give them the maximum points return from his five races in the car. Ferrari has had a driver on the podium in each of the last four races.

Ferrari went for test driver Luca Badoer for Valencia and Spa, but he was so far off the pace it was clear that points would be a remote possibility rather than a probability. In addition it was harming the Ferrari brand to have one of its cars at the back of the field, especially when the other car was winning.

It was vital for Ferrari that they have a driver who was capable of scoring points straight away and who would not have his head turned by driving a Ferrari at Monza.

There were some rumours that Robert Kubica might take the seat, which emanated from Italy in the last few days, but these may have been part of a negotiating ploy, as Force India boss Vijay Mallya was making noises about playing hardball and not releasing Fisichella.

It’s a romantic tale; the driver in the last stage of his career finally getting the call from the Scuderia, but Fisi knows that he has an important job to do – to back up Raikkonen and keep Ferrari ahead of McLaren in the points race. They currently have a 12 point lead.

“We have chosen Fisichella because we can expect him to make a valuable contribution in this final part of the season,” commented Stefano Domenicali. “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.”

It’s debatable whether Fisi has been able to show his true worth during a 14 year career in the sport. From 223 Grands Prix he has won only three times and had four pole positions.

Part of the reason is that Fisichella has had a career where he has had only sporadic access to a competitive car. The 1997 Jordan was pretty competitive, as was the Benetton at times. In 2005 and 2006 he had a race winner under him at Renault, but was overshadowed by Fernando Alonso. Those Renault years lead many people to believe that Fisi doesn’t have what it takes to cut it at the highest level in F1 and see no reason why he should stack up any better against Raikkonen than he did against Alonso.

This will be one of the most interesting aspects of his Ferrari challenge.

He is a driver who needs motivation; if his team mate is battering him or his car is uncompetitive he can be quite anonymous, but when the car gives him a chance, as the Force India did in Spa, or when he is fired up, he is usually ready to take it. He will be supremely motivated for his spell at Ferrari.

His face will fit at Ferrari, not least because he has already worked with Massa’s race engineer, Rob Smedley during his second stint at Jordan in 2002/3, including a victory at the crash-fest 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix. Ironically Raikkonen was originally awarded the win, but following an appeal by Jordan the victory was rightly given to Fisichella.

And his manager Enrico Zanarini knows the ropes at Ferrari as he was previously Eddie Irvine’s manager.

It’s a great story and it will provide Fisi with the perfect exit from the sport, he also becomes reserve driver in 2010.. in place of Badoer.

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50 Comments
  1. TinyJim says:

    James don’t you find it slightly odd that Fisi – an Italian driver – finds himself in an Italian car for the Italian GP? Doesn’t this seem too perfect, and too much of a money spinner?

    Then we have the Force India team who before Spa were relatively no where suddenly fighting for wins. Is it a coincidence that they have voiced financial concerns, as well as India pulling support for an Indian GP and then suddenly out of nowhere the team do well?

    1. James Allen says:

      I know where you are heading with this, but Force India have been getting a lot stronger lately. Valencia, for example, was a race where they should have had their first points. As for the Monza thing, the important thing for the tifosi is that the Ferrari is competitive and that its drivers give maximum effort in pursuit of victory. The nationality of the driver isn’t really important to them, in my experience.

  2. Aaron Shearer says:

    It’s a really nice sight to see, a driver ‘on his last legs’ so to speak going out on an almighty high. Personally I think he really deserves this opportunity Ferrari is giving him and I hope that he’ll be able to make the best of it.

    Good luck Fisi!

  3. Amy says:

    I am now going to eat humble pie – James I said you were unfair to dismiss Badoer before he even got in the car however, you were totally right!

    Really pleased about this news – I have always liked Fisi. He said on BBC it would be a dream come true and here it is!

  4. marcus says:

    “…if his car is uncompetitive he can be quite anonymous, but when the car gives him a chance, as the Force India did in Spa, he is usually ready to take it” – really?

    I think the reality has often been that he can make the most of the equipment provided his team mate isn’t faster than he is; the quality of the equipment often seems almost irrelevant. One could argue fairly convincingly for example that his finest season was probably 2002 where he annihilated Button in what was a dreadful car. Alonso’s slight superiority seemed to accelerate his decline by contrast and he seemed to get slower and more ground down as each of 2005/06 wound down, thereby enhancing Fisi’s reputation of the gifted driver but not mentally robust enough competitor.

    Raikonnen will be a tough nut to crack and I’d be surprised if he gets any closer to him than he did to Alonso so with grids as tight as they are he may ironically – in terms of ultimate grid position – do not a whole lot better than Badoer.

    Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ferrari aren’t being at least slightly prescient in their choice since they can get a heads up on the person who will be sitting in the car permanently next year – that man Alonso.

    If I were Fisi I’d think it not unreasonable to believe the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future were still haunting me.

  5. Jos The Boss says:

    Is this really the right move for Fisi though? It is likely the Force India will be every bit as competitive as The Ferrari next weekend and for the rest of the season, and after his great result at Spa he would surely have been retained for next season, where there is every reason to think Force India could have kept up their good form and competed for points and podiums. As it is now he will almost certainly have to stand down at the end of the year, and has probably only 5 races left in his F1 career.

  6. Michael says:

    Aww. I know it’s his dream to race for Ferrari, but it’d be nice to see him cross the line first for Force India in Monza. Oh, well.

    1. Michael says:

      I have to ask, though, James, could you have seen Flavio or Martin Whitmarsh allowing Fisi to make this move? I mean, Vijay is such a cool, laid-back, mellow guy (although I’m sure late Sunday, he must’ve chewed his fingernails off; I wouldn’t know, because I was at Indy for MotoGP), for him to tell Giancarlo, “You know what? You got us a pole, our first points, and our first podium. Go chase your dream,” it just seems so…rare.

  7. Steve JR says:

    Good luck to him in having his dream come true – it’d be nice to see him on top of the podium at Monza. It’s just a shame that it comes true because of Massa being injured and Badoer not cutting the mustard.

  8. john says:

    Well done James.
    It seems the Kubica rumour was just a “detour” to convince Vijay Mallya then..

  9. Adrian says:

    “Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this”

    James, can you shed any light on the above quote from Vijay Mallya?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes he gets to be the reserve driver for 2010 and, as we have seen with Badoer, that can be a long-term gig.

  10. Richard Mee says:

    Shhhhhhh… A moment’s silence for Luca Badoer at this delicate time…

    ….Personally I think it’s irresponsible of Ferrari to give a man the opportunity to so comprehensively ruin his life and shatter his dreams in 9 short days!

    Surely somebody deep in the bilges of Maranello knew he was going to be reeeeeeally sloooooow? Now he’s even lost the test driver gig!

    Bad luck buddy. Still, death or glory, God loves a tryer etc!

    Dreamland for Fisichella… I really hope he wins all 5 – that’ll cause Ferrari a bit of head scratching this Winter.

  11. rpaco says:

    Well best of luck to him, he deserves a good crack, but I still cant help thinking he may have had a better chance of winning in the Force India.

  12. Jason says:

    Mallya stated that no financial agreements were made with Ferrari. Is this the truth? I find it extremely hard to believe, especially with the debt Force India has with Ferrari.

    1. David says:

      IMO, the statement was for PR. Mallya is a business man …..

  13. Finn says:

    Happy for Fisi.

    He’s not the world’s greatest driver, but he is a very nice bloke and this is a lovely way for him to have some fun and kudos at the end of his racing career.

    They say he will be a Ferrari test driver next season. His racing career is over after 2009?

  14. Sam98 says:

    Two questions please James;

    1. Is he reserve driver or test driver? (i.e. Are Badoer and/or Gene out on their respective backsides?)

    2. Force India have issued a statement saying there was no financial negotiation involved. Is this a genuine sign of a team doing what’s right for the sport or do you think a deal will done in the background, probably with the rumoured outstanding engine bill?

    1. James Allen says:

      Reserve driver. Not sure of the status of Badoer/Gene. Badoer said in Valencia that he did not have a contract for next year. Hard to see how they could continue with him after his performances.

  15. John says:

    Best of luck to Fisi!

    I’d assume this basically means his career is over, however. I wouldn’t think he’d be picked back up by Force India for next year after this and I kind of doubt there are a lot of other offers out there. Any word on this?

    Personally, I’ve always said that Fisichella showed his true worth in 2005 and 2006. He had a championship potential car and was unable to deliver. Alonso completely overshadowed Fisi. In 2005 Fisi finished 5th in the standings and in 2006 he finished 4th, well below Alonso’s point totals. Perhaps Fernando received preferential treatment…who knows. But, the fact remains that Alonso drove the Renault to 14 wins and 29 total podiums in 2005 and 2006, while Fisichella managed 2 wins and 8 podiums. I always felt like Fisi thrived as the underdog (much like at Spa this year) and sort of faded when he was in a position to dominate. After winning at Melbourne in 2005, he had the opportunity to dominate the season and failed to seize the opportunity.

    Nevertheless, I think Fisi will do well at Ferrari in the little time he’ll have there. He’ll certainly do better than Badoer, by a long shot.

    1. Phil says:

      I don’t think the 05/06 critisicm is entirely fair, we all know that Briatore always has his favourites.

    2. Grabyrdy says:

      I was looking forward to a great duel in 2005 too and was disappointed. I’ve decided it’s a mental thing. Fisi doesn’t seem to have the last 1% of, for want of a better word “dog” which makes him really believe he can do it. Alonso has it, so does Lewis, Kimi, etc etc. At this level, it’s the difference. Even in Spa this w/e, it didn’t seem to occur to him (or the team) that he could actually win the thing until it was over.

      He’s still a wonderful driver and he can really have a go in these last 5 races. He has nothing to lose.

  16. ati says:

    How ironic would it be if a Force India would win the race with Fisi in second place in his Ferrari :D

    1. Laurence H says:

      I am certainly placing money on this to happen!

      1. Martin says:

        Who’s to win – Sutil or Liuzzi? Sutil’s been close to the points a couple of times, but I’d suggest that he is still developing his race management to suggest he is likely to turn an opportunity into a win.

        Liuzzi was the more impressive in other classes, but F1 is different – drivers learn to become high quality drivers. This is why there is so little turnover in the field year-to-year as the experience is so valuable. Liuzzi has been out of the real action for two years.

        The car then becomes a big variable. The Spa set-up was different to what went before. Suzuka has a similar average speed, so that might be the best chance of a repeat of the Spa grid performance. Monza is likely to bring the McLarens into the mix as the fast corners to fast straights mix is better for the McLarens. I’m not sure about the performance over the kerbs, but in recent history the McLarens have gone well. Kimi is less confident about Monza than Spa due to the F60′s ability over the kerbs.

        I hope you get really good odds :)

  17. Michael C says:

    Brilliant news! As you say James a nice way for Giancarlo to finish his F1 career. You could see David Coulthard salivating at the prospect (of David driving?) when he was talking to Fisi at Spa – that might have been fun too

  18. Rmstrong says:

    Go Fisi!! I feel Renault ruined a great driver. If you are not Flavio’s pet then life will be miserable.
    IMO, he has been the most underrated racer in F1 for years. Hopefully he proves me right. Hopefully he ends this season with a victory!

  19. Janet says:

    Fantastic for Fisico! I am very happy fro him. The fact is that he would have most likely been dropped for next season, so why not go out in style. In addition, as a reserve driver, should Massa not be as competitive upon return (it can happen), Ferrari has a stronng back-up on hand. I think this a win for both Fisi and Ferrari.

  20. Raj says:

    I am sure this is an arrangement which suits even the Scuderia much better. Had they put Kubica in cockpit and had he achieved something extra ordinary, Ferrari would have been in a fix for their next year line up. BTW, I would be really surprised if Kimi gets booted out even after the results he has achieved in last few races. I am an Alonso fan but find it very strange on part of Ferrari to replace the man who won them their only race of the season. I am saying this after counting Felipe in for next season.

  21. Alistair Blevins says:

    Button, Barrichello, Fisichella and Webber… it was all slipping away from them. Then 2009 happened. Truly an amazing season for drivers back from the brink!

    And just think where F1 has been heading in the last few years. Drivers were getting younger and younger, and seasoned pros being marginalised.

    Now we have the prospect of Villeneuve coming back next year too. He’ll hike the average age up substantially!

    BTW – If I read this correctly has Fisi signed away any chance of a race seat in 2010 to take up reserve driver status with Ferrari?

    1. Snail says:

      Now we have the prospect of Villeneuve coming back next year too.

      Please no! Well past his sell-by date.

  22. Lady Snowcat says:

    Despite the positive words about Massa coming out of Maranello I don’t think anyone can be 100% sure about him for next year…

    If you are signing up Alonso you can only keep the other seat open for Massa and pay out Kimi to go to Macca (I hope) if you have a back up plan in mind…

    The Alonso/Fisi combo worked pretty well before didn’t it?…. so that is a pretty good arrangement…

  23. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    I don’t know why Fisi is content to call it a race career after the season by becoming Ferrari’s reserve driver. He’s performed well this year, capping it with an awesome performance in Spa. He’s surely got plenty left in the tank, and he could be a very competitive driver for a competitive team somewhere. If Barrichello can win at 38, Fisi can certainly do it.

    He’d be a great fit for someone like Williams, who could use a veteran driver to pair presumably with Nico Hulkenberg, and he’d be great for giving them the same developmental help he gave Force India. Toyota, assuming they stay, would also be a nice fit for him.

  24. Bradley says:

    James, you don’t address the point about Fisi’s tendency to wobble under pressure.

    Spa was the perfect case in point: nothing was expected from him, and he drove a brilliant race. But now that the pressure is on his shoulders, will he crack?

    That was always what happened at Renault – every time he went out to qualify with some expectation on him, he failed to deliver. Has he changed in the intervening time?

    I’m not so sure that we can take it for granted that Fisi will score points easily. Monza will be a good track for Ferrari, but how many of the others are? Plus he has an awful lot of learning to do…

    1. James Allen says:

      Fair point, thanks for that.

    2. Red Kimi says:

      I agree…. remember Suzuka ’05…. He had it won… He was in the WCC car that year and still let Kimi come from the back of the pack to catch him….

  25. StaffsSteve says:

    James, you wrote “Fisi knows that he has an important job to do – to back up Raikkonen and keep Ferrari ahead of McLaren in the points race.”

    Will he have to take team orders and finish behind Raikkonen? Or is he free to race for the win? Either way I am pleased for Fisichella. I hope that he wins in Monza and makes it 7 winners in 7 grand prix.

    1. James Allen says:

      Of course he would be free to race for the win. When Salo came in for Schumacher in 1999 he was backing Irvine up in his championship challenge, but as Raikkonen has no title hopes this year the target is just to get more wins if possible and score as many points as they can

      1. Werewolf says:

        It may even be preferable for Fisichella to win. An Italian victory in a Ferrari at Monza has its obvious appeal – not achieved since Ludovico Scarfiotti in 1966? – but it could make it easier to sideline Raikkonen, if that is the intention, if Fisichella was to be ahead with any regularity.

        That said, I think Raikkonen is naturally the faster but some extra motivation to continue his current form can harm non-one.

      2. Charlie B says:

        I agree that Fisi will be allowed to race but Kimi could still win the title, even though not even I believe he will.

        James, also I still don’t get the 2003 Brazil result, surely it was Kimi (or David) who won, Fisi was only infront just before the red flag. Wasn’t it 2 (or 3) laps before the result was determined?

        I would really appreciate it if you could explain what happened in a hectic race.

      3. James Allen says:

        I just remember when the race was stopped, looking at the timing computer in the commentary box and seeing it move back one lap. Then shortly afterwards when they calculated the result they took it back a lap and Raikkonen was leading then, whereas it had been Fisi the lap later. When they realised what had happened, they had to change the winner. Fisi got his trophy at the next race, in Imola.

  26. Fans says:

    Best of luck to Giancarlo! Ferrari is like fulfilment of dreams! But in my oppinion Kubica was better idea! I like Massa and I wish him all the best, but I feel, I think that he won’t come back to F1! So Kubica would be the best driver on Felippe’s place! He is younger, faster (I think!) and the most important: he is far-reaching than Fisi!

  27. Xavi says:

    I think this was he smartest move made by a team in a long time.
    We all know that Alonso to Ferrari is pretty much a done deal. What nobody knos is if Massa will be ready to race next season or ever. I actually think Ferrari are counting on Maasa not coming back.
    With the signing of Fizzi they are preparing the field to make Fernando as comfortable as possible. What best way to do that than recreating those 2 special years (2005-2006).
    There’s more to this move than meets the eye.
    This is Ferrari moving to their previous modus operandi: Brilliant No. 1 with a consistent No. 2.

    1. Raj says:

      I do not think Fisichella will be occupying the 2nd Ferrari even if Massa doesn’t come back. Although it is just my opinion. Kimi is too good a driver for Ferrari to let him go if Massa is not going to be there in Bahrain(Thats where our next season is supposed to start I guess).

  28. dk says:

    I took the following quote from Wikipedia.
    <>

    It would be great to see Fisico be the next Italian after Michelle to win for Ferrari. Forza Fisico!

    To have him as test driver at Ferrari is another proof if one was needed that Fernando will be a Ferrari driver next year.
    With Fisico on board Fernando will feel at home straight away. Smart choice by Ferrari.

    1. dk says:

      oops my quote vanished from the post! Here it is again.

      Fellow Italian Giancarlo Fisichella dedicated his podium finish at the 2005 Italian Grand Prix to Alboreto, “I know Alboreto was the last Italian on the podium at Monza before me. I was lucky enough to race together with him in touring cars, and he was a great person, really special. I want to dedicate the result to his memory”

  29. Xavi says:

    I’m not saying that Ferrari want to replace Massa right away with Fizzi.
    The thing is, nobody knows how Felipe will react when he comes back. Will he be fasyt enough?
    Ferrari are trying to get the FIA to accept a three car entry for next year, but that ain’t gonna happen.
    This would be the easiest way for Ferrari to secure at least 2 really competitive drivers even if Massa doesn’t return.
    Ferrari can’t hold on to Kimi and Fernando at the same time while still retaining Massa (to expensive), and I don’t think Massa will get the boot, he is the perfect Ferrari soldier.
    Fizzi brings to Ferrari the option to get rid of Kimi and let Alonso and Massa duke it out, with someone who can give them good results in case Massa is out for good, at least for next year.

  30. kent says:

    why was badoer so slow? how could he have been effective as a test driver if he cannot get near to the potential of the car. the whole thing is mystifying to me. does it make sense to you james? thanks your website is great!

    1. James Allen says:

      Well he was fast enough in the early 2000s to be entrusted with some very important test work for Ferrari, so he must have been on the pace then. But testing is one thing, racing another. If you look back to before Valencia I made the point that he was likely to humiliate himself. He’s very out of practice and never was that great in Grand Prix races a decade ago. It was a very strange decision to run him.

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