Fisichella's Ferrari move confirmed
Giancarlo Fisichella will race for Ferrari in the final five races of 2009 after Force India agreed to release the Italian from his contract with the team. Ferrari also confirmed that 36-year-old Fisichella would become the team's reserve driver in 2010.
Speculation that the Maranello-based outfit would turn to the Italian to replace the struggling Luca Badoer as stand-in for the injured Felipe Massa from Monza intensified following Fisichella's starring performance in Belgium last week, although Force India owner Vijay Mallya stressed as late as Monday that there was no substance to the rumours.
Felipe Massa, currently recovering from injuries sustained in Hungary, will be out of action for the remainder of the season and with test veteran Badoer failing to shine at both Valencia and Spa Francorchamps, the Italian team were left with little alternative other than to look elsewhere for the remainder of the season.
For Badoer, his final two Grand Prix were something of a ‘thank you’ from Ferrari for his long standing service to the team as test driver.
Confirming in a separate statement that he had agreed to release Fisichella from his contract five races early, Mallya said that Fisichella and his management approached him yesterday to request the move after they had received an offer from Ferrari.
Mallya admits he simply couldn’t deny the Italian veteran the chance to race for his country’s iconic team at this stage in his career, especially as it was going to pave the way for a longer-term relationship.
“Giancarlo and his management team approached me yesterday with the proposal from Ferrari,” Mallya said in a statement.
“For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception.
“No one should stand in the way of this.”
“Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo's long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India.”
The Indian tycoon insisted that financial aspects had not been behind his decision to release Fisichella, following speculation that the team still owed Ferrari money from its customer engine deal last year.
Instead the Indian said the agreement had been made in good faith, adding that the prospect of an Italian racing for Ferrari at its home Monza race for the first time since 1992 benefited the sport as a whole.
'We would like to stress that we have not agreed any financial settlement with Ferrari,” Mallya added.
“This agreement has been made in good faith and for the good of Giancarlo and the sport in general.
“A competitive Italian driver in a Ferrari for Monza is a positive story for Formula 1, which can only help raise the sport's profile in these difficult times.”
Fisichella, who joined Force India for the start of the 2008 season after being released by Renault, had failed to score a point at the team before its astonishing front-running performance at Spa resulted in him securing pole and then only narrowly missing out on the race victory to new Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
And while the Silverstone-based squad will now have to do without its most experienced driver for the remainder of the season, Mallya is fully confident the team is strong enough to withstand the departure and build on its second place from Spa.
“For Force India, this sport is a team effort and removing one part, even a major one, will not significantly affect our performance,” he said.
“The competitiveness of the team seen in Belgium was a result of hard work in the factory and wind tunnel and we have further developments coming for the final races, so we are confident this momentum can be sustained. We are now looking forward to a strong finish to the season.”
Force India added that it would take a decision on who would replace Fisichella in its race team from Monza in the coming days.
However, it is likely to promote Tonio Liuzzi from his reserve driver role to the vacant race seat alongside Adrian Sutil.
Fisichella pictured in Ferrari colours for the first time
thank god Luca Badoer is gone now....
good news for Ferrari fans xD