F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer concludes his look back at Giancarlo Fisichella’s racing career.
Giancarlo Fisichella had a knack of being at the right team at the wrong time. He left Jordan for Benetton in 1998 just as Jordan was reaching its peak. And at the end of 2001 he left Benetton to return for Jordan, just as Benetton was about to become Renault. Where did that leave him? We shall see now in part two.
2002: As it turned out, Fisichella went to the slower team again. By the time he returned to Jordan, it was now beginning to decline. He found himself with new team mate Takuma Sato too often – they collided into each other twice that season. Watch for their first collision on lap two in Sepang from Juan Pablo Montoya’s onboard camera.
2003: This was supposed to be a terrible season for Fisichella with a second-class chassis and Ford engines. But somehow, someway, he found himself leading at Interlagos. Not only that, but shunts by Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso stopped the race – and he found himself the winner! That was one of only two points-scoring finishes he’d have all season.
2004: With Jordan in terminal decline, Fisichella began to look elsewhere. By now, he was looking for any way to get a Ferrari race seat. But with that unavailable, he settled for the next best thing – a race drive for Sauber with Ferrari engines and a Ferrari-based chassis. Most of the season went well for Fisichella, save for this huge shunt at Monaco after being blinded by engine smoke from Sato’s BAR-Honda.
Fisichella regularly used a heavy-fuel qualifying run to great effect, going for long first stints to get himself into the points. Here’s one such example in Monza, where he qualified 15th and finished eighth (despite getting passed by Schumacher along the way).
2005: One year at Sauber was enough to get Fisichella noticed again by his former team boss Flavio Briatore, who hired him to rejoin Renault (formerly known as Benetton). For the first time in his F1 career, Fisichella was driving a front-running car.
It started off brilliantly, qualifying on pole in Melbourne and leading from start to finish.
But after that, it started to get difficult. A string of retirements killed any hopes he had of winning the championship. What’s worse, Fisichella was now subjected to team orders in an effort to help team mate Alonso win the championship.
2006: Fisi was determined to prove that he was Alonso’s equal, and tried to go for the championship again the following year. He won early on in Sepang, again in dominant fashion. Martin Brundle talks us through Fisichella’s pole lap.
While Fisichella was able to score points more regularly (and beat Alonso more regularly too), it still wasn’t enough. He finished behind Alonso, the retiring Michael Schumacher and his team mate Felipe Massa in the championship. He was also a victim of bad luck – he was knocked out of Q2 at the Nurburgring after being blocked by Jacques Villeneuve.
2007: With Alonso off to McLaren, Fisichella was promoted to team leader at Renault, now alongside rookie Heikki Kovalainen. Fisichella was as racy as ever, and while the Renault was no longer the championship contender of old, Fisi was still able to pull off some cracking passes, like this one on Jenson Button’s Honda at Indianapolis.
But the second half of the season was rough, only scoring once in the last eight races. At Interlagos, Sakon Yamamoto ended Fischellai’s Renault run in a dramatic shunt. Aha, indeed…
2008: With Fisichella being replaced by test driver Nelson Piquet Jnr, he had to find a seat somewhere else. And for the third time in his career, he found a seat at the team now formerly known as Jordan. Fisichella became the team leader of Force India, but it was tough sailing, failing to score a single point all season. The closest he got was a top ten finish in Barcelona.
2009: The second season showed more promise. He came close to scoring points in many races, most notably Monaco. But in Spa, a new aero upgrade zoomed them to the front of the field, with Fisichella taking a fantastic pole position and using it to finish second in the race behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Here’s an onboard of Fisichella’s pole lap.
The future for Fisichella is Ferrari. At last, his dream of driving for Ferrari in F1 has come true, but if he wants to win, he will have to beat the man who beat him in Spa – his team mate Raikkonen. Will he pull it off? The Tifosi await with bated breath.