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Fisichella to race for Ferrari at Monza, reserve role for 2010 03 Sep 2009

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 27 August 2009 (L to R): Luca Badoer (ITA) Ferrari with Balbir Singh (IND) Force India F1 Team Physical Trainer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 28 August 2009 Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009 Force India team owner Dr Vijay Mallya with driver and polesitter Giancarlo Fisichella on the grid

Giancarlo Fisichella will race for Ferrari at the remaining five rounds of 2009 after Force India agreed to release him from his contract on Thursday. Fisichella will replace Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer as stand-in for the injured Felipe Massa, starting at next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix. He will then serve as Ferrari's reserve driver in 2010.

Force India have yet to confirm who will take over from Fisichella alongside Adrian Sutil in the team’s number 21 car, though third driver Vitantonio Liuzzi is already being tipped to succeed his fellow Italian.

“We've chosen Fisichella because we can expect him to make a valuable contribution in this final part of the season,” said Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali. “Giancarlo has shown throughout his long career that he's fast and competitive and we are therefore proud to be able to run an Italian driver in our home race.”

Fisichella, who scored Force India’s first-ever pole position, points and podium at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix after finishing a close second to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, commented: “I am very grateful to (Force India boss) Vijay Mallya for allowing me this opportunity to drive for the Scuderia Ferrari team.

“It is true that it has always been an ambition to do this, and for Vijay to have allowed it to become a reality is very generous. I hope in my turn I have helped Force India grow up and be on the right path to achieve their own ambitions. They are now a very competitive team and I wish them all the very best.”

Badoer was drafted in by Ferrari after Massa fractured his skull in a qualifying accident at July’s Hungarian Grand Prix. However, the 38-year-old Italian struggled to get to grips with the F60 in a race environment, prompting the team to seek an alternative as they chase third place in the constructors’ championship.

“We wish to thank Luca Badoer for the team spirit he demonstrated in these circumstances,” added Domenicali. “It is a shame he was unable to show his true worth in these last two races, tackled under conditions which anyone would have found difficult.”

Mallya said he had made the decision to release his driver for the good of Fisichella and of Formula One racing, and not in exchange for any financial settlement. He also hinted that the 36-year-old’s Ferrari deal extends beyond 2009, suggesting a possible testing role for the Roman next season.

“For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception,” said Mallya. “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. A competitive Italian driver in a Ferrari for Monza is a positive story for Formula One, which can only help raise the sport's profile in these difficult times.”

Mallya went on to thank Fisichella for his contribution to the team over the past one and a half seasons, but insisted his departure would not have a major impact on Force India’s impressive recent form: “He has been an integral part of the team and we owe him a great deal for his input behind the scenes and performance out on track - we wish him all the best for the future.

“This sport is a team effort and removing one part, even a major one, will not significantly affect our performance.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.”