Fisichella opens Force India account in style
30 August 2009
Giancarlo Fisichella was unable to convert the team's maiden pole position into a first victory, but took his Force India entry to second place in an intriguing Belgian Grand Prix to open the Silverstone squad's account after 34 races.
The Italian veteran finished just one second behind winner Kimi Raikkonen - who had powered into the lead on a lap five restart courtesy of Ferrari's KERS system - to record Force India's first-ever world championship points, with his eight-point haul lifting the minnow into ninth position in the constructors' championship and in line for a share of the sport's prize purse.
Fisichella started well from his pole position in three years, leading the field through the La Source hairpin turn and round the first lap. However, an accident further down the field called for the safety car to be deployed and, despite strong defence on the restart, he was unable to hold off the KERS-equipped Ferrari.
Determined to keep tabs on Raikkonen, however, the Italian matched the leader's pace lap after lap, until they both pitted on lap 14. Rejoining just metres from Raikkonen, Giancarlo continued to shadow the 2007 world champion until his second stop, which again came on the same lap as the Finn. Despite being generally quicker than the Ferrari, Raikkonen's use of KERS kept him tantalisingly out of reach, leaving Fisichella - who has been linked to a possible switch to the Scuderia for Monza - to settle for second, just 0.939secs from glory.
"It's been another great day, and an amazing result, today," the veteran admitted, "Before coming to Spa, if you had asked all the team if we would have been happy to finish eighth, we would have said it was a fantastic result, so second is a dream, just great.
"Actually, if I can be honest, I am a little disappointed as I felt we could have won the race. I was unlucky with the safety car, when Kimi came past me at the restart and overtook me with the KERS, and, behind him, I was quicker. However, with the KERS, I couldn't get past as it was impossible to be quicker on the long straight.
"But we can't take away from the fantastic effort, both at the track and in the factory, to get this result. After yesterday, I was pretty confident to score points, and it's positive for the championship and for the coming races."
Team-mate Adrian Sutil started from eleventh on the grid, but was a victim of a first corner accident that cost him his front wing. The German was forced to pit and rejoined far down the field, although a strategy adjustment, putting him onto a one-stopper, gave him opportunity to move as high as ninth position - pulling off some spectacular overtaking manoeuvres in the process - before having to accept eleventh place at the flag. The frustration, however, did not detract from team owner Dr Vijay Mallya's delight at securing a first haul of points.
"What a result," he enthused, "I am so proud of this race, which will ultimately go down in the history books as India's first-ever world championship points.
"It's been a fantastic Saturday, fantastic race and to get our first podium and championship points is just unbelievable. We've worked so very hard to get this with a solid plan of upgrades coming through on the factory. Giancarlo drove a truly outstanding race, but we can all be so proud of the entire effort."