Former F1 star Martin Brundle believes that Giancarlo Fisichella could have gone one better than his second place in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, if only the Italian had made a better getaway at the race's early restart.
Having managed to qualify on pole position for Force India, the veteran managed to hold on to his advantage on the run to La Source, and then maintained the lead along the high-speed section from Eau Rouge to Les Combes, despite the presence of Kimi Raikkonen's KERS-equipped Ferrari in his wake. When the Finn then made a minor error at the chicane, catching out Robert Kubica in the process, Fisichella's lead looked even more secure.
However, behind the lead group, chaos erupted when Jenson Button was tipped into a spin by rookie Romain Grosjean, and the safety car was called to clear away the stranded cars of both the Briton and his French rival, as well as those of Lewis Hamilton and Jaime Alguersuari, who had been caught up in the aftermath of the original incident.
The reduced pace, which lasted through to the end of lap four, eliminated Fisichella's early cushion, although the Force India continued to lead into Eau Rouge in lap five, once the pack had been released for a second time. It was on the run from the top of the hill back to Les Combes, however, that the Italian was undone, as Raikkonen made the most of his KERS system to draft up to the rear of the leader and then pass him into the chicane.
From there, Fisichella may have been expected to wilt and fall away, but he kept tabs on the Ferrari, even lapping faster than it for much of the race, before coming home just 0.9secs adrift after 44 laps. It is because of this race-long performance that Brundle believes that, had he remained in front, Fisi could have been on the verge of an even more historic result for his tiny team.
"I honestly believe that, if Fisichella had been a little bit sharper on the restart after the first-lap safety car, and hadn't got caught by the power-boost KERS of the Ferrari up the hill, he would have waltzed off and won by several seconds," the BBC
analyst claimed, "He should have backed the pack up at the restart and then bolted like a rabbit. He had a fundamentally fast package and he clearly wasn't overwhelmed to be at the front - he knows how to win a race, even if his memory is a bit rusty."
The Briton admitted that he was among those surprised by Force India's performance at Spa although, on reflection, perhaps he should not have been.
"Fisichella's pole position and second place finish at the Belgium Grand Prix isn't so much of a shock when you look at the basic ingredients and where Force India has been heading of late," he mused, "They've been gathering pace and threatening to do this for a while, but haven't delivered - in Germany last month, Adrian Sutil started seventh on the grid [and], in Spa, both drivers were near the top ten from the beginning of practice.
"This was the first race of the year requiring a medium-downforce set-up on the cars, and their package simply worked from the get-go with regard to grip, balance, and straight-line speed. Fitting new tyres and making small front-wing changes seemed to make them go ever faster.