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Biography

SEASON INFORMATION
13/01/2018

 

Biography

 

Giancarlo began racing at the age of eleven, and he competed in various karting championships during the next seven years.

He progressed to compete in the Italian F3 championship in 1992 where he stayed for three seasons, eventually becoming champion in 1994.

Giancarlo then moved to compete in the International Touring Car series where he stayed for two seasons. 1996 also saw him make his F1 debut when Gian Carlo Minardi signed him to drive for the Italian team.

He competed in eight races for Minardi that year, catching the eye of Benetton boss Flavio Briatore in the process. Briatore arranged for Giancarlo to test for Jordan, and despite his relative inexperience he was signed to Eddie Jordan's outfit for the 1997 season.

As Fisichella found his stride, he began to outpace team-mate Ralf Schumacher, and in the German GP he narrowly missed out on pole, and was on course for victory when a damaged tyre caused him to crash with just seven laps of the race remaining.

Fisichella moved to Benetton for 1998 after Briatore went to court in order to take up his option on the Italian, and Giancarlo claimed his only ever pole at the Austrian GP that season. Although he had hoped for an improvement, niggling mechanical problems hindered his results, but he did manage to score back-to-back podiums in Monaco and Canada.

He stayed with Benetton for four years, and although his relationship with Briatore publicly soured during 2000, he continued to score points for the team when the car allowed.

2001 found Giancarlo continuing to struggle with competitiveness, but the highlight of a difficult season saw him take his ninth career podium at the Belgian GP.

For 2002 Giancarlo 'swapped' drives with fellow countryman Jarno Trulli, but it's hard to say who got the best end of the deal. On paper, and in pre-season testing, the EJ12 looked good, but the fact that designer Eghbal Hamidy parted company with the Silverstone outfit just a few weeks into the season is a good indication of the problems facing the Roman.

The Honda was under-powered at the start of the season, and due to reliability power was actually reduced round about the mid-season mark. Poor weight distribution meant handling was difficult while the car was notoriously tough on tyres.

However Giancarlo continued to give it his all, despite the fact that an over-enthusiastic team-mate almost took him out of the Malaysian GP while a heavy crash during practice for the French GP left him sidelined for the rest of the weekend. In the wet at Imola on the Saturday morning, Fisi was magnificent while some of his qualifying performances were plain awesome.

Sadly Giancarlo's 2003 World Championship result (12th) was his worst since he came into F1 in 1996 with Minardi. Despite a fortuitous - but well deserved - win at Interlagos, 2003 was a season the Roman will want to forget as soon as possible.

The Jordan EJ13 simply wasn't up to it and despite his best efforts the Italian was lucky to add a further two points - courtesy of his seventh in America - to the ten he won in Brazil.

It was clear that Giancarlo was very unhappy yet still he continued to give 100%, as he has done throughout his F1 career.

He makes no secret of the fact that his ultimate aim is to drive for his beloved Ferrari, even though the Maranello outfit has shown no interest in signing him. That said he partly realised his dream in 2004 when he joined Sauber which of course used the Ferrari V10.

Despite teammate Felipe Massa's undoubted speed, Fisichella soon proved the dominant force, out-qualifying the Brazilian twelve times during the course of the season.

For once, Sauber maintained its pace throughout the year, and having begun the season qualifying 12th or 11th, by season's end, Fisichella was regularly in the top 8.

It was in the second half of the season also that Giancarlo amassed his points tally. By the time the F1 'circus' arrived in Canada, the Italian had just five points, although reliable, indeed one of the most reliable, the C23 wasn't scoring points.

However, strong performances in Canada, Britain and Belgium saw the Italian amass 22 points and end the year 11th in the drivers' championship.

Apart from Fisichella's determination and commitment, the other reason for the team's (relative) success in 2004, was due to its qualifying strategy, whereby Fisi would go out on full tanks and still qualify at the right end of the grid. Furthermore, despite (twice) losing ten grid places as a result of engine problems, the Italian managed to make up for the deficit, finishing ahead of his teammate.

For 2005 Fisichella returned to Renault, where he lined up alongside Fernando Alonso, creating one of the season's most exciting driver pairings.

It was never going to be easy.

The likeable Italian was up against a unique talent, driving for a team which was clearly aware that Alonso was the driver most likely to bring home the bacon. That said, Giancarlo gave it his best shot and got his season off to a dream start with a pole to flag victory in Australia.

It was good while it last, for from then on, as Fernando roared off into the distance, preparing to meet his date with Championship destiny, Giancarlo suffered the sort of bad luck which has dogged his career.

In Malaysia he was 'taken out' by Mark Webber, while it was inevitable that the Italian would suffer the French team's only (race) engine failure of the season (Bahrain). At Imola he span off following a mechanical failure, while in Spain a certain second place was lost as a result of a problem with his nose cone, which had to be changed.

Following his dream start to the season it was Monza when he next returned to the podium.

At Suzuka it looked as though it was all going to come together, and that a second season victory was on the cards.

With eight laps remaining, the Italian enjoyed a five second lead over Raikkonen. A lap later the gap was down four seconds as the ice-cool Finn remorselessly closed in.

The Renault didn't have the McLaren's pace, yet Fisichella was leading and therefore it was he who seemingly dictated events, especially at a track such as Suzuka. As Kimi closed in, one waited for the 'alarm bell' to ring in the Renault cockpit, forcing the Italian to sense the danger, but it didn't happen, instead he made an error at the final chicane.

The silver car closed right up on its blue and yellow rival, the gap, at one stage, down to one-tenth of a second.

Finally, Raikkonen made his move, in the braking area at Turn One he went around the outside of the Italian, who appeared to give in, knowing that he was beaten.

On the podium Giancarlo looked totally crestfallen and rightly so, no matter the ruthless efficiency of the Finn, and the sheer speed of his car, the Italian appeared to have given in without a real fight. A week later, at Shanghai, Alonso demonstrated that the R25 still had the pace to beat the MP4-20.

For 2006, Fisi was retained, despite rumours, for much of 2005 that his drive was in jeopardy.

Following his elimination from the Bahrain Grand Prix (hydraulics), Giancarlo hit back in the best possible way, taking a convincing win at Sepang.

The Italian then got into the groove, however, it was his groove. Although he was regularly scoring points, it was his teammate Alonso who was winning races. Indeed, despite having the same equipment Fisichella only managed five trips to the podium all season, while the Spaniard only failed to get the podium on four occasions all season.

With Alonso heading off to McLaren for 2007 there was immense speculation as to who would replace the Spaniard, Fisichella rarely entered the equation. Although he was part of a double championship winning team, for much of the time he was a bit player, indeed he was even unable to hold off a late charge from Felipe Massa for third place in the Drivers' Championship.

When, in mid June, Renault revealed that it was to retain the Italian, many were of the opinion that it was simply because the French team had failed to secure the services of Raikkonen, who was Ferrari bound. In a conversation with Pitpass editor Chris Balfe, one Renault insider, explaining the decision, admitted that the team was concerned at being left without a viable number one, a proven race winner.

In 2007, Fisi is partnered by Heikki Kovalainen, a fast and intelligent racer.

Ahead of the start of the 2006 season we wrote: "This year there can be no excuses, no talk of bad luck or lack of pace. There is a new order of rising talent and if Giancarlo is to remain with a top-flight team he must seize every opportunity, fight the fight and demonstrate that Melbourne 2005 was no fluke."

Ahead of the 2007 season those sentiments were equally apt. We warned that if the Italian didn't raise his game, and keep it raised, there was every danger he would be blown away by the young Finn, in which case there would be few options available to him for 2008.

Due to the switch to Bridgestone and incorrect data emanating from its windtunnel, the Renault R27 wasn't a good package. Therefore, considering the equipment at his disposal it's fair to say that Giancarlo did the best he could, certainly at the start of the season. While his team clearly struggled, Giancarlo's experience and his calm approach - rare in a Latin - helped hold things together.

However, as the season developed Kovalainen gained confidence, and by season end was the dominant force within the team, out-qualifying and out racing the experienced Roman.

With Renault making no secret of the fact that neither driver would be retained, Giancarlo's management made overtures to a number of teams including Williams, and it was only thanks to a fairly good performance in post-season testing and an agreeable financial deal that the Italian was able to find a berth at Force India.

When one considers that Fisichella - in his third stint at 'Jordan' - was driving a 2006 car, the Midland M16, the Italian didn't do too bad a job, and certainly kept his obvious frustration very much in check.

At Monaco he went into the history books, becoming the ninth driver in the history of the sport to compete in 200 Grands Prix. However, there was little else to celebrate that weekend, or indeed most other weekends in 2008. There were a few good moments, both of them in the wet, a great leveller of talent. At Monza he qualified twelfth while in Brazil he ran as high as third, courtesy of an early change to dry tyres. However, for the most part it was a year to forget.

In late 2008 it was revealed that Force India had done a major technical deal with McLaren and Mercedes which would surely see the Silverstone-based outfit make progress in 2009. To the surprise of many, possibly even the man himself, Giancarlo was retained along with 2008 teammate Adrian Sutil.

On paper Force India's season, particularly in the early stages, was pretty much the same as witnessed in previous seasons. However, what one tends to forget is the extreme lateness of the deal with McLaren and Mercedes. Yes, the start of the season was slow for the Silverstone-based team but it wasn't long before the new partnership began to make its mark.

As the car improved so too Giancarlo rose to the occasion, and while qualifying consistently proved difficult the Italian gave some typically bullish performances in the races punching well above his weight.

There can be no doubt that the highlight of the season, for both Giancarlo and his team, came at Spa where, having secured pole position the Italian brought the VJM02 home in second just 0.939s behind race winner Kimi Raikkonen.

With the Champagne still soaking into his overalls Giancarlo got the call from Ferrari who wanted the Italian veteran to replace Luca Badoer who was in turn replacing Felipe Massa.

For Giancarlo it couldn't get much better, a superb result at Spa followed, two weeks later, by the prospect of lining up on the grid at Monza in a Ferrari.

Sadly, Giancarlo was to discover, like Felipe, Kimi, Luca and Michael before him, that the F60 was a dog. In five outings the Italian never got past Q1 while his best race result was the ninth he scored in Singapore. Ironically, at Monza, Sutil qualified second and finished fourth in the Force India.

Ferrari retained Giancarlo for 2010 as test and reserve driver however, the Italian made it clear that he was still hoping for a race seat. For a while he was linked with Sauber, but the Swiss team opted for another veteran, Pedro de la Rosa. A return to Force India was also on the cards but instead Sutil and Liuzzi got the gig.

One of several test drivers on Ferrari's book for 2010, in truth Giancarlo saw little action, not even in the simulator. However, the popular Italian did get to drive a Ferrari in the Le Mans Series, along with another fan favourite, Jean Alesi.

With Jules Bianchi named Ferrari's sole test and reserve driver for 2011, Giancarlo, who attended the pre-season media event Wroom, will find himself confined to other duties at Maranello.

Statistics - at the end of 2009 Season

Drivers' Titles: 0
Seasons in F1: 14
Grand Prix: 228
Wins: 3
Points: 275
Poles: 4
Fastest Laps: 2

Best result in 2009: 2nd (Belgium)
Best qualifying 2009: Pole (Belgium)
Worst qualifying 2009: 20th (4 times)
2009: Out-qualified Adrian Sutil 6 times
2009: Out-qualified Kimi Raikkonen 0 times
2009: Out-qualified by Adrian Sutil 6 times
2009: Out-qualified by Kimi Raikkonen 5 times

2009: Completed 927 out of 988 laps (93.8%)
2009: Finished 16 times from 17 starts (94%)

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