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The Five Best Drives of Giancarlo Fisichella

Andrew Szekler writes about the excitement of Formula One racing.

Fisichella was a member of the F1 grid between 1996 and 2009. In the first decade of his career, Fisichella lacked the car to become a title contender, but many believed that given the right machinery, the Italian could mix it with the very best drivers of the grid. He eventually received a title-contender car in 2005 and 2006, but when he came up against a true world-class driver like Fernando Alonso, Fisichella had no answer and looked second best. Nonetheless, as we all know now, Alonso is one of the true greats of the sport and few were able to match him. Despite failing to match Alonso, Fisichella’s 14-season-long career was no fluke, and on his day, he was as good as anybody.

1999 Canadian GP

The 1999 season had utterly dominated by McLaren and Ferrari, and when the teams arrived in Montreal, the picture of the weekend looked like more of the same.

The two Ferraris and the two McLarens were on the front row of the grid and looked much faster than anybody else. Fisichella qualified his Benetton to a respectable seventh position, but he was already a second behind pole-sitter Michael Schumacher.

The race begin in the normal fashion of 1999, with the two top teams pulling away from the rest. Fisichella jumped from seventh to fifth at the start and was comfortably holding off the rest who followed him.

The race became notable for many drivers hitting the wall after the final chicane, and as three world champions hit it on the same day, it was christened the Wall of Champions.

Michael Schumacher was the first of the top drivers to make a mistake. He hit the wall on lap 30, the damage was serious, and he was out of the race. Hakkinen took the lead, but SCs disrupted the rhythm of the race in the following laps.

Once the SCs were out, Coulthard challenged Eddie Irvine for 2nd, but the two touched and collided, which sent both of them into a spin. The collision promoted Fisichella up to second, and he maintained his position until the end of the race to score his only podium of the 1999 season.

1997 German GP

The Jordan Peugeot was often a wild horse in the 1997 season, as the car showed glimpses of great speed from time to time.

One such occasion was the German GP, when Fisichella qualified second on the grid. The weekend was a very unusual one, as the two teams that dominated the season, Williams and Ferrari, were struggling somewhat. Williams man Villeneuve, especially, was having a tough weekend.

Gerhard Berger had just returned from an illness and took pole position from Fisichella and Mika Hakkinen.

Berger maintained his lead after the start from Fisichella, but Hakkinen was passed by Michael Schumacher. Berger was on a different strategy from the rest, as he was making two stops while the rest only one. Throughout the race, he tried to build a sufficiently big gap to be able to rejoin in the lead after his second stop.

Fisichella was surprisingly pulling away from Schumacher and Hakkinen, and Berger easily cleared them after his second stop. He failed to clear Fisichella though, and for a few laps, the Italian looked like the favourite to take the win; however, his tyres started to fade, and Berger passed him. Disaster struck Fisichella on the last lap when a puncture sent him into retirement, robbing him of a well-deserved podium.

2009 Belgian GP

Fisichella joined Force India in 2008, but in his first season the team looked very uncompetitive, and apart from Adrian Sutil’s brilliant drive in Monaco, they did not look like a point-scoring team at all.

Force India continued its weak form in the early half of 2009, but as the season progressed, they improved. By the time of the British, German or European GP it looked like they could score a point or two on merit.

They did a lot more than that during the Belgian GP. Completely out of the blue and contrary to all expectations, Giancarlo Fisichella took the pole position. It was for me one of the biggest shocks that I have seen in 19 years of watching the sport.

Fisichella maintained his lead at the start, but unfortunately for him an accident brought out the SC, and this meant that Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was right behind him at the restart. Raikkonen’s car had KERS, while Fisichella did not, so Raikkonen had an extra 60 horsepower at the restart.

Raikkonen gained track position after the restart, but Fisichella harried him all through the race after the restart, and if anything, the Force India looked like it was quicker than the Ferrari. Although the extra 60 hp made it impossible for Fisichella to repass Raikkonen, the second position was a great achievement for both driver and team.

2006 Malaysian GP

When Fisichella arrived at Renault in 2005 some people expected him to have the better of Alonso, but it did not turn out like that at all. Alonso generally easily had the measure of Fisichella, who was only occasionally able to get the better of his teammate.

One such occasion was the 2006 Malaysian GP. Alonso’s car was over-fueled thanks to a problem with the fuel rig in qualifying, and he was not a factor in the fight for the pole position as a consequence. With his teammate down in 8th place, Fisichella took an easy pole from Jenson Button.

Fisichella maintained his lead at the start from Button, and Alonso had a rocket start and jumped up to third. Fisichella and Button easily pulled away from the heavy Alonso, who dropped back during the first stint of the race. Fisichella also eased away from Button as the race progressed.

After the first stops, Alonso started to close up to Button and even passed him during the second round of pitstops, but he was no threat to Fisichella, who comfortably lead home a Renault 1-2.

2003 Brazilian GP

Jordan looked like one of the teams that could be the best of the rest behind McLaren and Ferrari in 1999 and 2000, however, after that, the team went into decline and rapidly lost its competitiveness.

When Fisichella joined the team in 2002, the decline was already underway, but still, the Italian had a decent 2002 season and scored points on a fair few occasions.

2003 began quite badly for Jordan and Fisichella, and they looked rather uncompetitive in the first two races of the season. Fisichella had a more impressive qualifying session in Brazil which saw him start the race from 8th position.

The race was held in soaking wet conditions, and the aquaplaning was a huge problem as it claimed victims like Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. Fisichella kept his cool and moved up to the fourth position as the race progressed. Barrichello had to retire from a car failure which elevated Fisichella to the podium not much later. Leader Coulthard made a pit stop, and Raikkonen, who took the lead from his teammate, made a mistake which allowed Fisichella through, into the lead in a Jordan.

A lap later Alonso smashed his Renault and the race was stopped. The lap before Alonso’s accident was seen as the end of the race, where it was still Raikkonen who was leading. Race direction changed this a week later, and Fisichella was reinstated as the winner, to take his first and Jordan’s last win in F1.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Andrew Szekler