Giancarlo Fisichella

Giancarlo Fisichella


Italian Formula One racing driver. Currently in the employ of the Renault team, he has also driven for Sauber, Jordan, Benetton and Minardi.

Quiet, reserved, private, well liked, and undoubtedly fast, Fisichella was tipped early on to be a successor to greats like Prost, Senna, and Stewart. While he has consistently been faster than his team-mates (with the exception of world champion Fernando Alonso), it seems wherever he goes, luck goes the opposite way. He is undoubtedly fast, but until 2005 was denied genuinely competitive equipment.

Like most current Formula One drivers, Fisichella began kart racing as a youngster. In 1992, he competed in the Italian Formula Three series, racing for the RC Motorsport team. He finished runner up in 1993, and in 1994 he won the championship, behind race victories in Monaco and Macau. He left open-wheel racing for a brief while, driving for Alfa Romeo in the international touring car series. In 1996, he made the move to Formula One, racing for Minardi for half the season before being replaced by Giovanni Lavaggi, the team needing a driver with funding.

Fisichella made his full F1 assault in 1997 with Jordan, scoring his first podium in Canada. That year he outclassed reigning Formula Nippon champion Ralf Schumacher, his team-mate. At Hockenheim he led for much of the race, but was denied the win by an inspired Gerhard Berger and a puncture. A superb second behind Schumacher at Spa in drenching conditions marked him out as a real talent and for 1998 he was snapped up by Benetton.

The timing was unfortunate. Benetton were now without works Renault engines and would not win another race. The first half of 1998 saw some very promising displays. Second places at Montreal and Monaco hinted at a strong season. At Montreal he had been in contention for the win, but gearbox problems slowed him and eased Schumacher's path to the victory. Austria saw a maiden pole, but a clash with Alesi during the race cost him any chance of a good result. For the second half of the year, Benetton's pace dropped off, and only two more points would be added to his score.

1999 was much the same. A few podiums were achieved, but the car was very inconsistent. Heartbreak came at the Nurburgring. Fisichella had been leading and was on course for the win, but crashed out. It would be his last chance of a win for some years.

In 2000 the story was similar. Early season podiums surprised many, but Benetton's now traditional poor second half of the season meant that he failed to score any more points. Since joining Benetton, Fisichella had comprehensively outclassed team-mate Alex Wurz and the Austrian made way for Jenson Button in 2001. Renault now owned the team, but the 2001 car was poor. Experiments with wide-angle engines did not allow for good power levels and for most of the year the Benettons were left to scrap with the Minardis. However, the efforts of technical director Mike Gascoyne and his staff saw the car move forwards. At Hockenheim Fisichella led home a 4-5 finish, whilst at Spa he put in an epic drive to grab the team's only podium of the year. Despite his dominance of Button that year, he found himself forced to leave to make way for Trulli in 2002. He returned to Jordan, but the team was in decline. The 2002 season witnessed him take just seven points, but little more was possible. In 2003 Jordan were forced to use Ford engines, Honda having ended their works supply. The car was very uncompetitive, but a freak win in Brazil saw Giancarlo take his first victory. Only a seventh at Indianapolis enhanced his score that year.

Unhappy at Jordan's fall down the grid, Fisichella moved to Sauber in 2004. Hopeful of using the team as a springboard to Ferrari, he drove well all year, comfortably outpacing Massa for much of the season. His strong performances rekindled the interest of old team-boss Briatore and for 2005 Fisichella returned to Benetton, albeit now called Renault. A win at Melbourne signalled his F1 breakthrough, but it proved to be a false dawn. Poor luck ruined many of his races and team-mate Alonso began to dominate him. All too often Fisichella would be in a strong position, before something went wrong. Racing commentator Tony Jardine has suggested that technical problems hampering his season are simply due to resources being directed at team mate (and World Championship leader) Alonso. The gulf in speed between Fisichella and Alonso was noticeable however. Many felt that Fisichella did not capitalise on his chances. A last lap surrender to Kimi Raikkonen at Suzuka cost him the win and prompted many to question his mindset.

On the 21st November 2005 Fisichella had his road licence confiscated for a speeding offence. He was apparently traveling at 148 km/h in a 60 km/h zone on the outskirts of Rome.

In the 2006 he was overshadowed by Alonso but was retained when the Spaniard quit to go to McLaren.

So in 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella will become Renault's team leader. His team mate will be the young Finn Heikki Kovalainen. The team's test driver is Nelson Piquet Jr..

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