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Exclusive interview - Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella 08 Feb 2008

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1. Force India F1 Drivers aboard Indian Empress, Mumbai, India, 6 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton (L-R) Shilpa Shetty (IND), Indian film actress and model, Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 and Shamita Shetty (IND). Force India F1 Team Livery Launch. 6-7 February 2008. Mumbai, India. World © Moy/Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 01 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton (L to R): Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1, and Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1. Force India F1 Team Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. World © Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 01 February 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

During his long Formula One career Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella has witnessed some extraordinary moments of Formula One magic. And after enjoying the glamorous launch of his team’s new car in Mumbai on Thursday, Fisichella has another memory to cherish.

On track too, the Italian has experienced more than his fair share of magic lately, clocking the fourth-fastest time at last week’s Barcelona test. Could 2008 really see the 35 year-old defy expectations and enjoy a successful season at his new team? We caught up with him in India to find out…

Q: Giancarlo, the last time we spoke you had only completed a few laps in the Force India car. Now you know the car better and after clocking the fourth-fastest time at last week’s Barcelona test, what is your verdict?
Giancarlo Fisichella:
I am happier now because we are doing a lot of important work with the 2007 chassis in preparation for the 2008 car. All this work is necessary and it resulted in a good lap time in Barcelona, especially as it was clocked on the first day, when the track is normally slow.

Q: Obviously it represented a big step forward. In what areas has the car improved?
We have now found the best mechanical set-up with the old aero package so that now we know how quick the car can be without the improvements.

Q: How important do you believe your input is? After all, you have joined from Renault, a world championship winning team…
When we get the first update we will see. If we are able to translate in track performance what we get in the wind tunnel, it will mean that the job has been done properly.

Q: And now that know the team better, do you expect the car to start challenging in the midfield?
Looking at everybody’s lap times now I believe we will not have a car that will be last anymore. But it is better to wait and see what happens in Melbourne after Q1.

Q: Seeing the passion that you are putting into your new team, it seems that this challenge came at the right time in your career. How exciting is it to help a backmarker team become a candidate for points?
For sure the general opinion was that I should have quit Formula One. On the contrary I like challenges and I love the sport and I want to prove everyone wrong. The management of Force India is very focused and they know what they want. The people out there do not understand it, so it is up to us to show them how things have changed.

Q: The new car has been launched with a great deal of pomp and ceremony - when will it hit the track for the first time?
In Barcelona from February 25th for three days. Adrian (Sutil) and myself will have three full days to test it before everything gets wrapped up for the first race down under.

Q: Have you been surprised by how enthusiastically India has embraced the team?
I am looking forward to even more! Let’s give them good results soon and you will see…

Q: Rumour has it that Renault and BMW Sauber offered you a position as a test driver. Is that true?
Yes. But honestly that was never an option for me. I want to race.

Q: Team co-owner Dr Vijay Mallya is not a traditional Formula One decision maker…
I am still in the middle of learning about Vijay. I have simply not spent enough time with him so far. But what I see is a man who has a huge passion for the sport, and one that brings a huge new audience to the F1 table. But like any successful businessman, he also wants to see results. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Q: This season we will see two new events in Singapore and Valencia. Singapore will have the added thrill of being a night-time event. Are you excited?
As for all the new things I feel excited about it. Probably it will be like the first time I skied under artificial lights. It is all a bit strange at the beginning, you have to get used to light and shadows in a different manner, but then it all becomes natural.

Q: Looking ahead, what do expect from your season?
I am looking for points - as many as I can get. Then we will work together with the technical people to gradually improve the car and I want to be their guiding force. As for real improvement, I would realistically say that the second part of the season is when I expect that we will catch up. Watch us then.