Exclusive interview - Force Indias Giancarlo Fisichella 11 Jan 2008
Even at 34 years-old, it seems Giancarlo Fisichella is still burning with ambition. After almost ending up without a cockpit for 2008, the former Renault driver fought back at Decembers Force India shootout at Jerez - and it paid off.
Outclassing several less-experienced drivers, including Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christian Klien and Franck Montagny, the Roman won the last available spot on the 2008 grid. With his preparations already underway, he is now biding his time ahead of the next challenge - the forthcoming season
Q: Giancarlo, how relieved are to have secured a cockpit for 2008?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Happier, for sure. It is good to know your objectives and to make plans for the season. I can finally do that now.
Q: Renault had put you on hold - when did they finally tell you that you were free to pursue other options?
GF: Early in September Renault could not confirm my seat, as they were waiting for Fernando's (Alonso) decision, so I was free to find other opportunities and before the last race in Brazil I accepted the invitation to test for Force India. I did it before Renault's announcement, taking a small gamble, but it paid off.
Q: There was a shootout for the second Force India cockpit with the likes of Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christian Klien, Ralf Schumacher and Franck Montagny all vying for the seat. You left the battlefield with the contract. What do you think swung the pendulum your way?
GF: Initially they told me it was not going to be a shootout, but I soon understood that the team wanted to see who was the best driver in all circumstances - and I guess I proved to be just that.
Q: It must feel a little like deja-vu for you, returning to the Silverstone-based team. You used to race for Eddie Jordan some years ago
GF: This is my third stint under the same roof, I can speak to the walls and they will answer back to me.
Q: From a former world championship-winning team, you have signed with an outfit that has experienced some difficult years. What are your expectations for the coming season?
GF: I believe in what I have been told. This project is meant to take our team further up the grid, and this is a great challenge. The budget is there and, unlike over the past five years, the technical team finally has the chance to build a better car. It will take time, but I hope to be a guiding force in achieving this objective.
Q: You were the last driver to win for Jordan - in Brazil in 2003. That victory came amid chaotic scenes in treacherous, wet conditions. Any chance of a repeat this year, especially given the removal of traction control ?
GF: I won the race in Brazil under very special circumstances with a car that was always on the last row of the grid. To win this year again needs very special circumstances so it is a question of what the weather can bring to us. But as we have seen last year at the Nurburgring anything is possible - even from very far behind. And sure I have driven in Formula One with and without traction control, so there is no issue of adapting to the change for me - I can simply go racing.
Q: Your new team mate Adrian Sutil has only one year of Formula One race experience, but has put in some pretty impressive performances. Who will have the edge in terms of pace? Do you expect to be the lead driver?
GF: I have not talked about this so far with the team management. But they told me that I am the experienced one and that I have to lead the team. I am sure that the material will be exactly the same for both of us but I feel the responsibility to lead the growth and progress.
Q: You recently claimed that if you had $10 million dollars youd stay home and watch Formula One on TV. Surely, though, that doesnt mean youve lost your hunger for racing - and winning?
GF: That is something that I said to steal the thunder of those who spread rumours that I would have to pay to stay in Formula One. My passion for Formula One is enormous but I would never pay to stay.
Q: Out of the R27 and into the Force India car - what are the differences, and where are the shortcomings?
GF: Actually the F8-VII is not a bad car. To tell you the truth I expected a lot worse before I drove it in Jerez for the first time. It is very similar to the R27, as it lacks aerodynamic grip. For sure it needs a big upgrade with a lot of wind tunnel work, but the baseline is as good as Renaults.
Q: How easy will it be to improve your new work place? What will be the time frame?
GF: Our target is to improve performance in qualifying and racing trims. My personal target will be to bring as many points as I can to the team and challenge all the other cars in the middle of the field.
Q: Force India's co-owner Dr Mallya said that he expects his cars will perform better in 2008 instead of being on the last row. Do you see this as a feasible aim? All the other teams are also hoping to improve
GF: Everyone is improving and every other team's expectations are the same as ours, this is Formula One. It will be down to those who make it and those who don't.
Q: Having the driver line-up announcement in India must have been quite an experience. Did you imagine in your wildest dreams just how Formula One crazy India is?
GF: This is a great country with an incredible number of people who are going to be a force behind our team. Force India - they could not find a better name than that.