Giancarlo Fisichella: the driver debates

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In the first driver debate we looked at Adrian Sutil. Today it’s the turn of his vastly more experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.

The 35 year-old Italian will be present at his 200th Grand Prix in Spain in two weeks’ time. How do you rate his career?

When Giancarlo Fisichella won the first round of the 2005 world championship at Melbourne it must have felt like vindication for him.

After years of languishing in sub-standard machinery, Fisichella had become the man almost everyone in the paddock expected to shine once he finally got into a recent car.

The 2005 Renault R25 certainly was that – Fernando Alonso won seven Grands Prix in it and, with it, the world championship. Fisichella didn’t win another race all year long, ending the season fifth with 58 points to Alonso’s 133.

He added another victory in 2006, his third career win, but once again Alonso was out of touch. Fisichella’s sole win came at Sepang on a day when Alonso was compromised by problems in qualifying, and at the end of the season the score read 134-72.

In his defence Fisichella claimed to have gotten closer to Alonso on pure pace but as I wrote at the time that didn’t quite ring true.

Rookie Heikki Kovalainen saw him off in 2007 and Fisichella was dropped by Renault. He ‘returned’ to Force India, formerly Jordan, his team of 1997 and 2002-3.

Back at the tail end of the grid Fisichella seems to have resumed the role he was born for in F1 – squeezing the best out of uncompetitive cars. The team were delighted with his 12th place finish in Bahrain, ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s ailing McLaren, Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams, Sebastien Bourdais’s Toro Rosso and others.

This is how he spent much of his early career, first at Minardi, then Jordan, Benetton, back at Jordan, and then Sauber before the big move to Renault.

Has Fisichella blown his chance of being a front runner?

Giancarlo Fisichella biography

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Giancarlo Fisichella: the driver debates”

  1. Fisichella can’t be a front runner anymore. He proved that, at Renault, in a Championship winning car, he could win a race per season. Fisi, for me, never looked like a contender, despite being fast in below midfield cars. He never made that impact that was needed to nail a drive in top teams. And he only got one after years and years of being admitedly faster than it was expected in a bad car, but at the end, he blew it.

  2. yes, i have always thought him overrated, he cant perform when he should.
    having said that he is in an average car this year so he’ll have a good year, but as far as top drives go, it’s over for him

  3. Fisico has been beaten by too many teammates to be considered a top-driver. He can shine on his day, but these days were few and far between during his long career.

  4. Mario Peeters
    9th April 2008, 10:00

    He reminds me of Jean Alesi.  has the skills but will never have that little bit of luck you need to be a winner.

  5. Fisi seems to be destined to be a very good driver in not so good teams (cars). He is doing great job in Force India, but of course we only can compare him with Sutil. Who knows what the talk would be if his team mate in Force India was for example Alonso …

    The thing is, if we consider him overrated, what to think of Sutil, the former McLaren seat candidate who clearly can’t keep up "even" with Fisi …

  6. I think it may be a psychological thing with Fisi more than anything else – being beaten by a teammate for whatever reason, be it skill or luck, seems to make him worse rather than better.

    Being away from Renault he is now a big fish in a little pond at Force India so I assume this has affected his mindset – perhaps he feels more valuable at a smaller team, less pressure to perform.  Plus of course he has arguably a lesser teammate this year considering he has been paired with Alonso and Kovalainen in the past.

    He reminds me of Massa – give him a quick car and a track he likes and he will likely do a good job, but if his teammate has the same equipment and is beating him with it consistently then it all seems to go wrong.

  7. Maybe Fisi just couldn’t deal with Flav?

  8. In my opinion it’s very simple. Fisi is a very good driver, but unfortunately there are small number (maybe 5 or 6) of guys that are better than him. This means that if he is in a top team (where those guys probably are), he will be killed by his team mate, but if he goes to Force India, well it’s a great luxury for Force India to have one like Fisichella…

  9. I’m not saying Fisi was better than Alonso, but I’ll draw a comparison with Yarno and Alonso. In 2004 Yarno Trulli was seriously out performing Alonso. The net result, Yarno was sacked before the end of the season. Yarno did try to warn Fisi that Alonso was flavio’s baby, but naievly Fisi didn’t take that warning seriously. He ended up wasting 3 years at Renault, when in fact Sauber had wanted to retain his services.

    Fisi requires that he be appreciated to be motivated.

  10. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    9th April 2008, 12:54

    i hope the fact that that fisi got beaten by alonso and kovalaenen at renault doesnt make people forget some of the great seasons he had in f1. dont forget he out scored villeneuve, button, massa, ralf, all who were considered better driveres than him, well maybe not ralf. i think it does have something to do with mindset like craig said in small teams he can produce good results. ok he got thrashed by alonso but i dont think theres many drivers in f1 now who wouldn’t. also in 2002 the rest of the drivers voted him driver of the year which i think says alot about how well he is rated in the f1 paddock and by his competitors. his timing has always been bad really, he moved from jordan to bennetton for ’98 just as jordan were on the up and benetton were on a downfall but he still took a few podiums and i was suprised ot took so long to get a top drive.

    i think its too late for him to get another top drive in f1 i dont thionk hel be around for much longer but i hope that being beaten by alonso and kovaleinen doesnt make everyone remember him as a bad driver

  11. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    9th April 2008, 13:07

    following on from what oliver said, what if he had stayed with sauber who are now of course bmw imagine how well he could be doing now??

  12. Yes, I remember the promise of his early career, but it never blossomed, did it?
    I think F1 for him is largely over, but no doubt he is talented and could shine at LeMans or in DTM. Thereis no disgrace in that.

  13. IMHO… although Fisico might be well beyond his prime now and having been comprehensively beaten by Alonso cannot be disputed… there is one small observation I have made… I am not so sure if rest of the people agree… as long as Fisico was with Renault (the last three years)… Renault was ahead of the game in most aspects… and if I remember correctly… Renault said that the reason their car wasn’t competitive enough was that they had focussed on winning the 2006 championship and therefore were not able to start the development work on the 2007 Renault in time… in other words it was an underdeveloped car… I do not know if it’s just me, but I get the feeling that Renault needed Fisico more than he needed them…

    I mean you need guys like Fisico and Rubens to make a dog of a car work… and then you need someone like an Alonso or Button to make a good car better… and here is where I think Michael had the edge… he took the worst car (I think it was called a truck at one time) and made it the best car … but then… I am not as well versed in F1 history… and I admit I could be wrong…

    But to answer your question… I don’t think Fisico ever had the chance to be a world champ… it would have been heartwarming to see him be the world champ… something like watching Nigel Mansell become the champ… but I think his purpose in F1 is slightly different… and if wikipedia is correct… then I think he owns/runs a GP2 team as well… so all I would say is that don’t count him out… you just might see him on the podium someday collecting the Constructor’s trophy…

  14. Oliver: Great point. Nowadays nobody seems to remember that Trulli outpaced Alonso and got sacked for that.

    I hope to see one day Trulli in a Ferrari rather than other racers…

  15. Harkirat – I agree with what you say about Fisichella making a bad car better but Barrichello? I can’t see what his value to Honda is at all.

    You’re right about Fisichella running a GP2 team by the way, unfortunately they’re responsible for keeping the embarassingly hopeless Jason Tahincioglu in the series.

    Fisichella did give an interview at the end of last year where he said Renault were very ungrateful to have dumped him after he did so much to help Alonso’s title campaigns. I don’t remember him doing very much at all – at least not in the races, he was usually too far behind to make a difference.

  16. Fisichella is the type of drivers F1 needs if you ask me. There have been many instances in the past where fast, raw and inexperienced drivers have come into the sport, be it with any type of team, and maybe on a few occasions proved that they have the stuff it takes. But then they also have those moments where they just throw it all away and cause accidents or problems. eg Massa a few years ago. However, with Fisi here, he manages to get into a car (inferior though they are) and use all his experience to get the best out of it day in, day out. You know with Fisi that you are going to get a man who will do the best he can every time he gets in the car, and he will use his experience to provide us with good racing instead of chaotic racing. Yes he is not perfect, as he showed at renault, and he probably wont get the chance to win the championship again, but i still rate him as a driver.

  17. theRoswellite
    10th April 2008, 17:02

    200 hundred Grand Prix starts…..and a GP winner.

    The man has shown real speed and talent over his career, and seems to have functioned very professionally in numerous teams.

    Is he one of the very few, the very top drivers…  He has had the opportunity with Renault, but was unable to reach that very top group.

    As with most drivers who have been able to sustain a long career in F1, his speed has certainly diminished some over the years.

    Certainly we should be able to applaud his talent as we have enjoyed his efforts on so many Sundays, and any "problems" we have with him may be more a reflection of our own unrealistic assessment of what being a Grand Prix driver is all about.

  18. i can see that everyone is very sympathetic towards fisico… well the stats tell a very different story. though stats can be misleading, they generally point in the right direction.
     fisico once even stated that he could pay for a seat at ferrari…but we all know ferrari never considered him…he’s a good driver but not a fast one.. and with f1 speed is everything.. that is the reason why we see him do a good job with slower cars.. its as simple as handling a real fast car…fisico cant and hence often remains in midfield…but he might just be the right stepping stone for force india..but sutil.. i dont know what mr. sorry DR mallya is thinking..

  19. James Steventon
    20th April 2008, 18:22

    To be honest, I was surprised that Force India took Fisichella on for 2008. Yes, he is vastly experienced, but I had my money on him taking a more subtle approach, maybe as test driver like Alex Wurz.
    He could help develop the car, use his knowledge that way, and allow the team to race somebody younger next to Sutil. Christian Klein would, possibly have been a good bet. He has had F1 experience, and would surely relish the opportunity to race again.
    Fisichella, much in the same way as Ralf Schumacher, has had plenty of years in which to make a mark for himself. He, like Schumacher Jnr, has driven for some great teams with fast cars, yet, like Schumacher Jnr, never set the world alight.
    He was the perfect team mate for Alonso at Renault. He had the knowledge and experience to help with the car and its development, but not the sheer speed and drive in which to cause Alonso any persistent problems.
    Abit like Coulthard to Mika Hakkinen, or Montoya to Raikkonen. Chances, real chances, don’t come along in F1 very often, and Fisichella is a lucky boy at Force India.
     Good luck to him, in what must surely be his last years in F1.  

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