Formula One veteran Giancarlo Fisichella insists that his place in the Force India team is secure, despite speculation that the Silverstone squad's deal to use McLaren-Mercedes technology may see him replaced by one of the Woking team's prot?g?s.

Although team owner Dr Vijay Mallya claimed at various points during his first season in F1 that both Fisichella and Adrian Sutil would be retained for 2009, the advent of Force India's relationship with McLaren - which will provide it with Mercedes power, a complete drivetrain and KERS technology - persuaded him to admit that he would take advice from his new partner on all aspects that might help move the backmarker off the foot of the championship table.

To that end, Mallya allowed McLaren reserve Pedro de la Rosa to test one of his VJM01s at Barcelona last week, and could yet be persuaded to take on either the Spaniard or, more likely according to the rumour mill, Mercedes DTM star Paul di Resta as one of his drivers next season.

While that would appear to spell bad news - and possibly the end of the F1 dream - for either Fisichella or Sutil, the Italian insists that it will not be him departing the team.

"The only thing I know is that, in September, we were told that Pedro could test and we could not say before it was made official, so I was not at all surprised," Fisichella admitted to the official F1 website, "As for the rest - I am not really interested in F1 gossip!

"I originally signed a two-year contract which was reviewed in September to incorporate the McLaren deal. In a few words, the team offered me a better car and a different package. I accepted their proposal and both sides signed the new document between Singapore and China. This is why Dr Mallya made the announcement in Shanghai.

"The [McLaren] partnership is our biggest step towards finding competitiveness in the future. Vijay is building on a solid platform and going forward, so that Adrian and I are given a real chance to perform. The line-up has been announced in China in October by Vijay, and I trust people who trust me."

Fisichella, who entered F1 with Minardi back in 1996, has been credited with using his vast experience to help Force India and is unlikely to be paired with de la Rosa. However, if di Resta comes on board in place of Sutil, the veteran would again provide a proven yardstick by which improvements in both team and driver could be measured. Force India was the only team not to score in 2008, despite coming close on a couple of occasions, but Fisichella claims he is not dispirited by the latest step in his F1 career.

"I knew it was going to be tough and no promises were made to me at the beginning," the three-time grand prix pointed out, "The plan was to build up the future of the team and, genuinely, I had no big expectations, so I can say I am not disappointed, especially with my own performance.

"We did not have a competitive car, that is all. Twice we were in the points - Adrian [was running fourth] in Monaco and I was eighth in Brazil, but twice we did not score and that is not because of driver errors.

"A competitive package [is] all I want and [is] what I have been promised. And that is a very good reason to drive for the team in 2009."


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