Tag Archives: Giancarlo Fisichella

F1Weekly podcast #719


Minardi (1996)

In 1996, he made the move to Formula One, making his debut for the Minardi team, after being the official test driver the previous season. However he did not complete the full season since Minardi required a driver who could bring funding to the team, and replaced Fisichella with Giovanni Lavaggi.

Jordan (1997)

For 1997 he made the move to Eddie Jordan’s eponymous team, where he drove alongside former F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s brother Ralf, himself a former Formula Nippon champion. Fisichella gained his first podium finish at the 1997 Canadian Grand Prix, and went on to finish higher in the points standings than his team-mate. At Hockenheim a victory looked to be within reach for Fisichella, but a puncture and the performance of an on-form Gerhard Berger denied him the win. Fisichella was able to show his talent again at the rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix in which he finished a commendable second behind Michael Schumacher. Following this race, the Benetton team signed him for 1998.

Benetton (1998–2001)

Fisichella driving for Benetton at the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix.

The timing of his move to Benetton move was unfortunate. Following Renault’s withdrawal from Formula One, Benetton would contest the 1998 season without “works” (factory-supplied) engines, instead using rebranded development versions of 1997 Renault engines. Despite not having the latest engines, Fisichella still managed second places at Montreal and Monaco, even being in contention for a victory in Canada until gearbox problems slowed him down. In Austria, Fisichella scored his first pole position, although an on-track clash with Jean Alesi during the race cost him any chance of a good result. He was then able to add only two more points to his total in the second half of the year as Benetton lost ground on their competition.

1999 proved to be a similarly inconsistent season for Giancarlo Fisichella. He did score some points finishes, including second at Montreal, and again came close to a victory in the European Grand Prix, until he spun off whilst in the lead. This would prove to be his best chance of a victory for the next few seasons.

Fisichella’s season was to follow a similar pattern in 2000. He again gained some surprise podium finishes early in the year, but Benetton’s now unfortunately traditional poor second half of the season meant that he failed to score any more points. Since joining Benetton, Fisichella had comprehensively outperformed his Austrian team-mate Alexander Wurz, who would then leave the team to make way for British rookie Jenson Button in 2001. Renault had purchased the Benetton team by the start of the 2001 season, but their investment was too late to enable much progress with Benetton’s uncompetitive 2001 car, and as a result, Fisichella was battling for much of the season with teams such as Minardi and Prost. However, the efforts of technical director Mike Gascoyne and his staff did result in improvements over the year, culminating in a 4-5 finish at the German Grand Prix and a third-place finish for Fisichella at the Belgian race. Despite Fisichella gaining the team’s best results that season and consistently outperforming Button, he was not retained by the team, so he rejoined Jordan for 2002.

Jordan (2002–2003)

Fisichella driving for Jordan at the 2002 US GP.

Fisichella managed to score just seven points in 2002, comfortably outpacing new teammate Takuma Sato, although the Jordan-Honda car of that year was never truly competitive. After Honda withdrew their engine supply, Jordan switched to Ford engines for the 2003 season, but the team were still unable to compete with the top teams on the grid. Despite this lack of performance, Fisichella won his first race at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Battling with McLaren’s Kimi Räikkönen amidst heavy rain and numerous crashes, Fisichella took the race lead on lap 54, soon before the race was red-flagged. However, he was demoted to second place on the podium, because (per regulations) Räikkönen was the race leader two laps prior to the red flag. Several days later, though, the FIA determined that Fisichella had already begun his 56th lap before the red flag, meaning that he, and not Räikkönen, had been leading the race two laps before its premature end, awarding the Italian his first F1 victory. Fisichella was the only F1 driver to have won a race without having stood atop the podium. He collected the winner’s trophy at the next race at Imola.[2] Fisichella’s only other points finish of 2003 was to be a seventh place at Indianapolis.

Sauber (2004)

Fisichella driving for Sauber at the 2004 US GP.

Unhappy at the Jordan team’s performance, Fisichella moved to Sauber in 2004 in the hope of greater results, and of using the team as a way of gaining access to, and a drive for, 2003 World Champions Ferrari, who supplied re-badged engines to the Sauber team. Fisichella drove well all year, comfortably outpacing team mate Felipe Massa for much of the season (scoring 22 championship points vs Massa’s 12).

Renault (2005–2007)

Fisichella at the 2005 United States Grand Prix.

His strong performances prompted former Benetton-Renault team boss Flavio Briatore to re-sign him for the 2005 season as partner to the young Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. A win at the season opening race at Melbourne signalled the Formula One breakthrough that commentators had been predicting, but it proved to be something of a false dawn. A run of poor luck saw Fisichella fall behind his team mate in the championship standings, and at times the pair were achieving noticeably different lap times with the same equipment. It appeared that Fisichella simply did not have the pace to match Alonso.

The difference in pace between Fisichella and Alonso was noticeable, and while Alonso’s metronomic consistency helped him win the 2005 championship, Fisichella’s general bad luck was to cost him points finishes. He was overtaken and lost the lead on the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix by McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen, despite his race engineer urging him to avoid letting Räikkönen past. Nevertheless, his performances alongside Alonso throughout the season enabled Renault to win the World Constructors’ Championship ahead of McLaren and Ferrari, the team that had won that title the previous six seasons.


Motorsports Mondial


At the Le Mans Test Day, the 56 cars invited to participate in the 80th edition of Les 24 Heures du Mans were able to make their final preparations for the actual race in two weeks time. Although, the timing was not official, at the end of the eight-hour test session it was Audi and Toyota LM P1 cars heading the classification. It was extremely close with the fastest cars separated by no more than a second. The same was true of the LM P2 and GTE classes, where again there were small margins between the leading cars. While all drivers had to run an obligatory ten laps to qualify, the main body of attention was on the large number of competitors experiencing the Circuit de la Sarthe for the first time.

As expected, the fastest lap times were set by the powerful LM P1 cars. After the four-hour morning session the top five cars were within one second of each other with the Audi of Loïc Duval just out in front. Rolex Ambassador Tom Kristensen was second fastest in the Audi Hybrid: “The car with its four wheel drive did wonderfully. In the morning we had some rain and that’s when you love Quattro technology.” The team from Toyota was surprisingly fast despite no previous experience at Le Mans. Former Formula 1 driver Sébastien Buemi from Switzerland adapted quickly, and came up only half a second short of the fastest lap on his first visit to the historic track. In the second session it was Audi’s Allan McNish who set the fastest time of the day, beating teammate Marcel Faessler by over a second. Alexander Würz was the best Toyota driver setting the fourth fastest time. Elsewhere in LM P1 group, the Strakka Racing Honda set a satisfyingly fast time in the morning, while the Lola-Toyota did well in the afternoon. Peter Dumbreck, one of the drivers of the debuting JRM team was just happy to have qualified: “This is all new to our team, but together with Brabham and Chandhok we made it without too many problems.”

In the LM P2 class there was a close battle too. Both in the morning and afternoon sessions, Nissan powered cars topped the timing charts, but were less than a second faster than the Honda powered prototypes. Although an overall winner here in the past, Martin Brundle could not deliver the speed he would have hoped for today. The 1988 Rolex 24 At Daytona and 1990 Les 24 Heures du Mans winner is partnered by his son Alex along with Spanish sports car veteran Lucas Ordonez, and, it was the younger Brundle, making his debut, who shone the brightest. Two Dutch drivers also making their first appearance at Le Mans had contrasting experiences. Yelmer Buurman in the Status Grand Prix Lola was among the faster cars, while Reiner van der Zande’s run was hampered by small electrical problems throughout the test; problems that kept the second Lola-Lotus in the pits for most of the day. Running in its own experimental class, the futuristic designed Nissan Delta Wing ran without major problems and set times comparable to the LM P2 cars.

In the morning the Ferraris once more showed their speed in the GTE Pro class as Frédéric Makowiecki stayed just ahead of former Formula 1 legend Giancarlo Fisichella. However, in the afternoon it was one of the yellow Corvettes driven by American Tommy Milner that led the classification. Another rookie to suffer a set-back today was Milner’s compatriot and fellow-Corvette driver, Jordan Taylor, who had the misfortune to crash his car late on: “I came in directly from Detroit where I won the GT class in the Detroit Rolex GRAND-AM Series race. I made my ten laps to qualify without problems, but lost it on the 12th lap.”

In the GTE Am class the Aston Martin with an all-Danish line were top of the time sheet closely followed by the Larbre Competition Corvette and the Flying Lizard Porsche. American Ferrari driver Brian Vickers enjoyed his first laps on the track, even though it was raining during part of his time behind the wheel: “In the beginning I had to find the right line and paid a lot of attention to the faster cars. After a couple of laps, I got the right feeling and lap times dropped significantly.” Later in the day, disaster almost struck as his partner Rui Aguas spun the Ferrari and damaged its bodywork.

All 56 qualified teams will now stay in Le Mans with initial scrutineering starting this coming Saturday. Practice for the 80th edition of this classic event begins on Wednesday, 13 June. Just three days later, on Saturday, 16 June the competing grid will get the green flag when the Rolex official timing clock shows three o’clock in the afternoon.