Following Giancarlo Fisichella’s impressive performance at the Belgian Grand Prix, in which the 36-year-old qualified the Force India VJM02 on pole position and then recording the best-ever result for the team with a second place finish, Scuderia Ferrari have called for the service of the popular Italian for the upcoming Grand Prix in Monza.
Giancarlo will race alongside Kimi Raikkonen for the rest of the season as a replacement driver for the lacklustre Luca Badoer, who struggled in the previous two races.
Speaking at Maranello on Thursday, having met team principal Stefano Domenicali and other Ferrari personnel to discuss plans for the Italian Grand Prix, Fisichella was clearly overjoyed at the turn of events – which comes almost 14 years after he tested a Ferrari 412 T2 on September 27, 1995 at Fiorano.
“I’m in seventh heaven,” Fisichella told the official 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.”
Domenicali said he had thought long and hard before opting for Fisichella, and were keen for the Italian to have a long-term relationship with the team.
“We chose Giancarlo, because we think that he can make a significant contribution in terms of points during the finale of this uncertain season,” he explained.
“Furthermore we considered what could be his role inside the team in the near future, also taking this year’s experiences into account. He will be the reserve driver in 2010.
“I want to thank Vijay Mallya and Force India F1 for giving Giancarlo the possibility to cancel his contract in such a happy moment for the team, allowing him to crown his dream as a driver.
“Now we have to concentrate on Monza, an event we really care for in a very special way: we know that it will be difficult to keep the performance level we had over the last Grands Prix, but we’ll give our best to entertain our fans and I hope there will be lots of them at the track to support us.”
Fisichella’s appointment comes at the expense of Luca Badoer, who failed to shine during his two-race outing for the team. Although happy about his own position, Fisichella expressed some sympathy for the plight of his fellow Italian.
“I want to say that I’m very sorry for Luca,” said Fisichella. “I know how much he cared to race in Monza behind the wheel of a Ferrari, because this is the best thing that can happen to an Italian driver, to drive a red car in front of our fans.”
As to who will be racing in the Force India, step forward Vitantonia Liuzzi. The 28-year-old last raced in Formula One for the Toro Rosso team back in 2007, with a sixth place in the Chinese Grand Prix his best result. This new opportunity has come at the perfect time for the Italian as he been on the sidelines no thanks to the limited testing this season. Let’s see if the two Italian drivers will produce the goods in their home race at Monza.