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