New Ferrari recruit Giancarlo Fisichella has confessed that he is 'in seventh heaven' after being released by Force India to join the fabled Prancing Horse for the remainder of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign and likely also the remainder of his grand prix career – 14 years on from when he first and last drove one of the scarlet machines.
On 27 September, 1995, Fisichella – along with fellow up-and-coming young Italian racing drivers Gianni Morbidelli, Luca Badoer and Pierluigi Martini – tested for Ferrari at Fiorano behind the wheel of a 412 T2. More than a decade later and now incontrovertibly nearing the end of his long and successful stint at the highest level, the Roman returned to Maranello to meet his new work colleagues, get comfortable inside the cockpit of the F60 and begin preparations for his home outing at Monza next weekend, when he will live out the dream of every one of his countrymen in racing a Ferrari in the Italian Grand Prix. The 36-year-old's enthusiasm is palpable.
“I'm in seventh heaven,” Fisichella told Ferrari's official website. “I still can't believe that the dream of my life is coming true, and I want to thank Ferrari and Chairman Luca di Montezemolo. Over the last week some really incredible things happened to me; the pole position and then second place at Spa, and now I'm called by Ferrari to race in the last five races of the season for them. I'll give my best to recompense the Scuderia
for this great opportunity they have given me.
“I know that it won't be easy, but I'll give it everything to gain the best possible results. I want to say that I'm very sorry for Luca [Badoer]. I know how much he cared to race at Monza behind the wheel of a Ferrari, because this is the best thing that can happen to an Italian driver, to drive a red car in front of our fans.”
It is clear that great things are anticipated of the three-time grand prix-winner when he takes to the track in one of the legendary red machines for the first time, and with a Ferrari testing role on the table for next season and beyond, these last five grands prix look likely to be Fisichella's one and only opportunity to stand atop the podium once again – only this time in scarlet overalls.
In seeking to stave off the threat of a resurgent McLaren-Mercedes behind in defence of Ferrari's third position in the 2009 constructors' standings, both di Montezemolo and team principal Stefano Domenicali are confident they now have the right man for the job.
“I chose Fisichella for several reasons,” revealed di Montezemolo in an interview with television station TG1
, “starting with the fact that he deserves it, that he's on great form and that he is an expert driver. On top of that, we all wanted to have an Italian driver in our car for Monza and lastly, because we take the long-term view, as he will be our third driver.
“I wish to thank Luca Badoer who, once again, has been so amenable towards Ferrari. Therefore, I look forward to Monza with confidence and especially with great pleasure at having Fisichella in the team. It is an important moment, coming off the back of a great win with Kimi Raikkonen. We also have the good and important news that Felipe Massa is recovering well and will be more than ready for the first race of next season.
“That Felipe will race again, that he is recovering and that he will be very ready to race next season is a further plus, after what was a terrible August for us, what with his accident, all the uncertainties and, unfortunately, Michael Schumacher's fitness difficulties, when we would have liked to see him in our car. However, bit-by-bit, we are putting everything right again. Victory is the best medicine.”