The man who was once considered the most promising talent not to have a front-line seat has conspicuously failed to deliver since arriving at Renault in 2005.
He’s lagging behind his junior team mate in the world championship standings and the team has not yet confirmed his position for next year. Could he be on the verge of retiring from F1?
For many years the Italian was the coming man who couldn’t get a break with a top team.
After making his debut with Minardi in 1996 he switched to Jordan before being whisked away, Michael Schumacher-style, by Benetton and Flavio Briatore.
But the team was on a downward spiral. He left at the end of 2001 to return to Jordan, where he won his first ever race in the chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix of 2003.
A year at Sauber preceded a ‘return’ to Renault (formerly Benetton) in 2005. It brought him two wins, and two years of pummelling at the hands of Fernando Alonso.
After Alonso left Fisichella began this year comfortably quicker than new team mate Heikki Kovalainen, leading the young Finn 13 points to three after the Monaco Grand Prix.
But Kovalainen has turned the tables, scoring points in the last five races while Fisichella has been out of the top eight sine to British Grand Prix. In the championship the score reads Fisichella 17, Kovalainen 21.
Can Renault make a case for retaining Fisichella? Kovalainen is arguably the team’s leading driver now and they have the talented rookie Nelson Piquet Jnr (A GP2 championship runner-up just like Kovalainen) waiting in the wings.
And it seems likely that Briatore’s delay in naming his drivers for 2008 is because he holds hopes of pinching Alonso back from McLaren if today’s espionage hearing goes against the British team.
If Renault drop Fisichella, where else could he go? Replacing Ralf Schumacher at Toyota seems a possibility, although it’s unusual to see a team field a pair of drivers of the same nationality, and GP2 championship leader Timo Glock has been linked with that seat.
The only other options might be a return to the kind of back of the grid teams he began his career with.
Photo: Charles Coates / LAT Photographic
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