F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer turns his historical eye to Ferrari’s new star Giancarlo Fisichella.
Fisichella has taken a circuitous route to F1’s most famous outfit, changing teams eight times in 14 seasons. In this two-part series we’ll cover his career from karting, to F1 victories, and on to Ferrari.
1989: Fisichella’s karting days in Italy produced solid but unremarkable results. Here’s a rare clip of him racing, and colliding with, fellow future F1 driver Jos Verstappen.
1993: He moved up to Italian Formula 3 in 1992. He tried his hand at the Macau Grand Prix twice, but crashed out both times. This is a highlight reel of the 1993 race, including Fisichella’s crash that year.
1996: After dabbling in touring cars for a year, Fisi came back to single seaters in style – entering Formula 1. Of the current grid of established drivers, he wa the first to successfully enter the sport through Minardi. He only contested ten of the 16 races that season, as Minardi needed to bring in pay driver Giovanna Lavaggi. But the young Fisichella impressed with his performances.
Here he is qualifying in Montreal. He started 16th, but climbed to eighth by the finish.
1997: His run at Minardi was enough to get him a drive with Eddie Jordan. This would be Fisichella’s first of three stints with the Silverstone-based team. His teammate that year was the similarly promising Ralf Schumacher.
Many were surprised when Fisichella beat Ralf that season, thanks to some brilliant drives. Just two races after contending for the win in Hockenheim, here he is with a fantastic overtake on Jean Alesi to move up to second in the rain at Spa. And that’s where he finished, behind only Michael Schumacher.
His first weekend at Monza was well above expectations. He qualified third and finished fourth, ahead of both Schumachers, both Ferraris, and eventual World Champion Jacques Villenueve. Many were now marking Fisichella down as a star of the future.
1998: We know Fisichella has always had the desire to drive for Ferrari, but he also spent much of his career driving for other Italian teams. Other than his stint with Minardi, Fisichella also stayed at Benetton for four years. His first year there was more of the same from 1997. Here he is challenging Michael Schumacher for the win in Montreal. He couldn’t beat Schumacher’s pace, but had more than enough to secure second.
Fisichella’s first career pole poition came in dominant style at the A1-Ring. He was on pole by more than seven tenths, thanks to a wet qualifying session. Sadly, he and Alesi both fell back at the start, and later took each other out of the race.
1999: While this season started out well for Fisichella, with 13 points and a podium in the first six races, it went sour after that. He failed to score for the rest of the year as the Benetton became increasingly uncompetitive. The low point came when he spun out while leading at the Nurburgring.
2000: The season started well for Fisichella – he finished third in Interlagos after a race-long scrap with Heinz-Harald Frentzen. It got even better when he was promoted to second after David Coulthard’s disqualification.
It was another season of two halves for Fisichella. The first eight races went well, with five points-scoring finishes including three podiums (like this one at Montreal fending off Mika Hakkinen). But after that, it all went wrong. A string of four DNFs accompanied by finishes outside the points meant Fisichella slipped down the order and Benetton only just hung on to fourly in the constructors.
2001: Fisichella’s last year at Benetton was terrible. The car was uncompetitive for much of the season, and there was little they could do.
But there was a bright spot for them at Spa where Fisichella was on the same pace as the McLarens. He managed to finish third behind Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard.
Fisichella had run out of patience at Benetton, so decided to move on. Part two tomorrow will cover his recent accomplishments.