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Fisichella move to Ferrari – a boon or a bane for Force India

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Fisi celebrating his 2nd place at Spa

Fisi celebrating his 2nd place at Spa

Force India has lately been going through exciting times! The Kingfisher of good times has suddenly found a sweet spot and largely has it’s lead driver – Giancarlo Fisichella – a Formula 1 veteran, to thank for it when they secured their first podium finish and points of their Grand Prix history.

I have written about Mallya’s brave moves when he, alongwith the Mol family, bought out the Spyker F1 team (the rechristened Midland F1 or the erstwhile Jordan team) in 2007. It’s been a seesaw two seasons for Vijay Mallya. The VJM01 was nowhere close to competitiveness and the VJM02 showed signs of promise with the new regulations but somehow their first points were eluding them.

Last season, even with a sub standard car, they were able to almost come 4th in the Monaco GP with Adrian Sutil before Kimi Raikkonen rammed home his chances when he crashed into Sutil at the end of the tunnel. This season, they were again close to points and again with Sutil but could not convert it into race points due to sheer bad luck. However, they had a resolve to make it into Q2 of qualifying consistently and started doing so. Later, they sneaked into Q3 and in what a way – Fisi took pole for arguably the best ever F1 circuit that there is in the world – Spa Francorchamps at Belgium!

Coming to Fisi’s move to Ferrari, people might call it a two-edged sword for Force India. On one side you have him deliver their first ever GP points in F1 and on the other, you have him leaving Force India immediately after that affecting the psychology of the Force India team.

However, you have to remember that Adrian Sutil has been consistently outqualifying his team mate – Giancarlo in this season. Any follower of F1 will tell you this. Furthermore, it was Sutil who took Force India tantalizingly close to their first GP points even last season and this. So, by no means has their competitive edge in driver line-up been shaken. Fisi’s 2nd at Spa was a reason to celebrate for Force India but they have nothing to be ashamed of with their line-up with Sutil leading the charge Brigade and as Vijay put it – Force India is not going to start going slow just because Fisi moved to Ferrari! The package they have for this year with the latest updates is blindingly quick and esp. on the fast straits of Monza and Spa. They will still run in the mid-field or even at the front depending on how the drivers take the cars. The Mercedes package is reliable.

To sum it up, Ferrari will have Fisi as a blessing compared to Luca Badoer who was very disappointing but then it was expected. Alongwith Marc Gene in the 90’s Badoer was no where close to being quick even during the erstwhile Minardi days so what did anyone expect from him? With Fisi, Ferrari has found a frontline driver who will definitely compete at the front and score valuable championship points for them alongwith Kimi. This is a given. Where he stacks up against the rest of the pack is anyone’s guess but I would say he would position himself somewhere in the top 6; consistently in the next 5 races of the 2009 season.

For Force India, it is to be seen who is going to replace Fisi. If it is an Indian, esp. the likes of Karun Chandok – I would be excited because Karun holds a lot of promise in GP2. He has been a consistent podium finisher and his father also came on Television some days back trying to market his skills. That said, Vijay Mallya is an astute businessman. His business interests and his not opting for a Narain Karthikeyan in 2007/08 shows he is going for head over heart and he is going to strictly balance his decision based on pure driver standing and performance and recognizing young talent. Time will tell but I would like to see an Indian in an Indian car similar to how Fisi (an Italian) has got into an Italian car (Scuderia Ferrari) at their home GP (Monza). It sometimes works out as a great package!

From Sutil’s standpoint, I would say he is on the road to scoring his and additional points for Force India for sure in the coming races. He is quick and aggressive. He was in front of McLaren Mercedes last year and this year so he can go fast (arguably faster than his ex-teammate – Fisi as well). He has the potential to be a future world champion.

Let’s see how this drama unfolds! But I am proud of Mallya as I have said before. He brings a unique sense of Patriotism and aggressiveness and his love for Motorsports might just catapult India into the main league of Motor racing to compete with the best of the best and make a name for India!

These are exciting times for not just Mallya but Indian MotorSport – Gill’s comments notwithstanding. Bernie Ecclestone has pooh poohed Gill’s comments and said the Indian GP is on track at Noida!

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Written by Naveen Athresh

September 6, 2009 at 8:14 am

Posted in Automobiles, F1

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