Grace vs. Laura Marieee: Fisichella Retires

Not every season ends with the retirement of a trusted and valued friend. But when the time has passed and the memories are long—it becomes such a year. With the retirement of F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella (Fisi), I asked the two females of F1B to take a “pro” and “con” position. As many of you know, Grace quickly opted for the “con” position. Seems reasonable as she’s not the biggest Fisi fan.

The idea was to give you, the reader, a great look at both sides of the coin. A review of the career that was overwhelming to some and underwhelming to others. What better way to do that than offer the F1B women the opportunity to slug it out in fine fashion. Laura will take the “pro” position with her panache, poetry and British charm while Grace will take the “con” position with her…snark! Be careful, no matter who you agree with—they are both terrific and we couldn’t be more elated to offer the first joint Op-Ed featuring the two most beautiful parts of F1B.

Redoubt vs Marbles

So that’s it, the 2009 season is over! And the sad thing is, for many of the drivers, they have no idea who they’ll be driving for next season, if indeed whether they’ll be in F1 at all. In particular, Fisichella is one of those. After switching from a drive with Force India to Ferrari for the last five races of the 2009 season, it looks unlikely that he will drive in F1 again next year as he will be Ferrari’s reserve driver. So, seeing as he’s been in the sport for quite some time, Todd thought it would be a great idea to team Grace and I up to talk about Fisi, and how much he’s achieved- or not- and how much he’ll be missed- or perhaps not in Grace’s case… So I’ll do what I usually do, and Grace will chip in with her usual snark…

When Fisi was confirmed as Massa’s stand in at Ferrari from Monza onwards, for him it was a dream-come-true and for the fans it was a case of, “Yay, Badoer out! At least Fisi will be able to do a better job!”, but it didn’t exactly happen like that. After qualifying on pole at Spa and matching the pace of Kimi, in what was later to become his last race with Force India, it seemed fitting that he should get the chance to drive for the Prancing Horse. But since his move, he hasn’t been able to deliver, and he has regularly propped up the back of the grid, and indeed the back of the pack during the race.

While driving for Ferrari has been a dream for Fisi, it hasn’t been quite what the fans were expecting. His last race for Force India was a sign of just how good Fisi can potentially be, and with a good performance under his belt, many thought he would jump into the Ferrari and be straight into Q3 each race, and scoring as many points as possible, but it hasn’t happened.

Fisi has said he has no regrets in joining Ferrari, which of course came right at the time when he was starting to achieve more with Force India, and in many ways you have to hand it to him. To sacrifice the success he was beginning to have with an up and coming team, when Badoer was proving how difficult it was to be successful in a Ferrari you’ve never driven before, is impressive. There is also the fact that both Force India drivers- Sutil and Fisi’s replacement Liuzzi- were considerably better than Fisi in Monza, in both qualifying and the race, with even Liuzzi’s retirement simply being down to a reliability issue rather than driver error. Although Fisi finished, Liuzzi had been running ahead of him before his retirement.

Of course Fisi has had some great moments in F1, and this season he’ll be remembered for that impressive pole at Spa and his eventual second place after holding on to Kimi throughout the race.

All in all, during his F1 career he has had three wins, his first in Brazil in 2003 for Jordan. In 2005, he scored his first pole in the season opener in Melbourne, and went on to win the race for Renault, however, despite five more podiums, it was his teammate, Alonso, who went on to be more successful. In 2006 he claimed his third win and finished fourth in the championship standings.

In 2007, Renault were less successful, and it was rookie Kovalainen who out-shone Fisi, and in 2008 he moved to Force India. He didn’t achieve great successes with the team, until his last race with them and after that, he was living the dream, driving for Ferrari. But after many years in F1, where he has become a bit of a veteran, it is a shame that if this is it for Fisi, that he couldn’t have gone out on more of a high- something he perhaps may have got at Force India, and then again if he had remained there, he may still have a seat in F1. But these are all ‘what ifs’. Maybe it was never meant to be for him, unlike it has been for Hamilton in his early career, and for Button who after years of striving to be the best has finally taken the title.

Even though he won’t be leaving F1 with a championship under his belt, he will leave as a recognised driver who will be remembered, even if it is simply for achieving his dream.

And Now a word from the Redoubtable Grace:

Congratulation race fans – the middling career of one Giancarlo Fisichella from Rome, Italy – is finally over. Sure, he’ll continue as a reserve driver for Ferrari, but seriously who are we kidding – how many veteran test drivers do you know that have returned to F1 and had a successful career? That’s what I thought. Not that I blame the guy because I think living your life out in the plush arms of Ferrari is definitely the way to go. Nice vacations in the mountains, the pretty girls- it seems pretty win/ win to me. Besides, why stick to a team that has the potential for mid-field dominance at best, when you could go out with the best – but maybe that’s just me.

So as I look back over Fisi’s career two words stick out to me: potential and bad luck. Now it’s a hard line to draw between actual skill and perception, especially in F1 where a driver’s talent is masked by the car they are driving, however, this can’t be very comforting to the man behind the giant white sunglasses. Sure, he wasn’t the most successful driver out there but he certainly wasn’t a strong middle either. He didn’t even have the consistency or the car set up knowledge that a DC brought to the field. Frankly, at the end of the day, Fisi was a nice guy, who made a good pizza and should go back to his quiet life in Rome. A great Formula 1 driver was never in the cards for him and in many ways I’m surprised he’s lasted this long on good looks and experience.

Sure Fisi had some great moments, like Japan 2005. Oh wait, that was one of my favorite Fisi moments, probably not one of his. And sure, it wasn’t a fair comparison to put him up against Alonso at Renault, but he couldn’t even perform a constant P10, let alone win races. Without the brilliance of a Kimi Raikkonen, consistency is all a driver has in F1. If you can’t consistently bring it home for the team, then you’ll be consistently out of a drive. Come on, Khaki Hovalovian did better at Renault than Fisi did and we all know how I feel about the human paper shredder.

Really the highlight of his career was during his one year stint at Sauber in 2004, where he consistently scored higher than his team mate: That’s right my other favorite driver. No not Webber but Felipe Massa. Oh how interesting that worked out for both of them.

So as the dawn draws dark on Fisi’s career, I stand by his decision, big sunglasses and all and wish him a fond farewell. Sure, he left FIF1 as they we starting to go up but he must know what I’ve been suspecting – Spa and Monza were flukes. Otherwise, he would have either stayed at Force India in 2009 or returned to Force India for 2010. The fact that he’s staying with Ferrari as a test driver just further cements the obvious in my mind.

So enjoy the good life Giancarlo and don’t get too close to that Sutil kid. I hear he’s a bit of a crasher.

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