Giancarlo Fisichella had an impressive karting career before stepping up to Italian Formula Three in 1992. He won the title two years later with 10 race wins plus victory in the Monaco Formula Three race.
He raced in the short-lived International Touring Cars series (part of the former German Touring Car championship) in 1995 and had a test for Minardi which led to eight races for the team the following year.
Fisichella gave the team their best result of the year with eighth place at Montreal, but was replaced by Giovanni Lavaggi who brought more oney to the cash-strapped outfit.
First times at Jordan and Benetton
However he had attracted the attention of Flavio Briatore, who moved Fisichella to Jordan for 1997 before bringing him to Benetton in 1998. While at Jordan Fisichella usually had the upper hand over Ralf Schumacher and looked likely to take second at the German Grand Prix until he suffered a puncture.
Fisichella arrived at Benetton as the team were heading into a slump in form that would lead to their takeover by Renault in 2001. The Italian would ride the drop all the way to the bottom in 2001, and although he generally out-performed Alexander Wurz (team mate from 1998-2000) he was the team’s preferred driver.
Return to Jordan
In 2002 he returned to Jordan in a straight swap with fellow Italian Jarno Trulli. His timing was no better as Jordan, having won races in 1998 and 1999, were heading into a slump of their own.
But with some fine wet-weather driving and a slice of luck he took his first win in the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix – although it took the FIA stewards until a few days after the race to hand the trophy from Kimi Raikkonen to Fisichella.
He switched to Sauber for 2004 where he partnered Felipe Massa, out-scoring the young Brazilian 22-12. It proved the stepping stone that would finally put him in a top-line team.
Renault and Alonso
For 2005 he returned to the Renault to partner Fernando Alonso, but although he went into the season with 142 race appearances to Alonso’s 51, and won the first race of the year, it was Alonso who stormed to the championship. Fisichella ended the year on 58 points, fifth overall, to Alonso’s 133.
It was the same story the following year – another win, again on a day when Alonso’s starting position had been compromised, while his team mate won the championship. However as Alonso headed to McLaren for 2007 Fisichella was retained to partner newcomer Heikki Kovalainen.
Kovalainen proved no soft touch either, and although Fisichella coped better with the less competitive R27 in the early part of the season, Kovalainen scored Renault’s only podium finish and beat Fisichella in the points. Neither driver was retained, and Fisichella found himself short of options.
For 2008 he found himself back once again at the team formerly known as Jordan, now owned by Vijay Mallya and re-named Force India F1 Team ahead of their d?ā?®but.
In the un-competitive VJM01 Fisichella never troubled the scorers, and inevitably found himself caught up in first-lap tangles, such as at Istanbul, where he launched over the back of Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams. When opportunity afforded him the chance to run with the front runners at Singapore, Monza and Interlagos he proved he still had it in him.
Fisichella started the 2009 season with Force India but by the end of the year he was driving for the team he had long dreamt of joining – Ferrari.
Early in the year it was clear Force India’s form was improving, largely thanks to a new technical collaboration with McLaren which included a supply of Mercedes engines. Fisichella got within touching distance of a points finish at several races early in the season.
But it was after a new upgrade was put on the car at Silverstone that the VJM02 began to show impressive pace, particularly at quicker circuits. Fisichella duly put the car on pole position at Spa and finished second – losing out to Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari by less than a second.
At the next race Fisichella was Raikkonen’s team mate, as Ferrari brought him in as a replacement for substitute driver Luca Badoer. Fisichella struggled to come to terms with the F60 and finished the season without scoring any more points.
He will remain with Ferrari in 2010 as an test driver. He also drove for them in sports car racing but his F1 race days were over.