Giancarlo Fisichella's first day of testing since the end of the 2007 grand prix season proved to be a fraught one, with various mechanical gremlins thwarting the Italian's outing with Force India.

The former Renault driver made his much-hyped return to the Silverstone team that he once graced during its incarnation as Jordan as the Jerez group test opened, but was denied a meaningful attempt to set times as a string of problems saw him returning to pit-lane.

Along with fellow Force India 'debutant' Franck Montagny, Fisichella kicked off the team's final test of the season by working through a schedule of chassis development, general set-up work and continued evaluation of the new-for-2008 standard ECU package. The Italian also tried the 'slick' Bridgestone Potenza development tyre thought to be the precursor for a return to similar rubber in 2009.

"It's my first day back in the car, nearly two months after the last race in Brazil, plus my first with another car and new engine - and, of course, without the electronics," Fisichella noted after posting a best of 1min 21.424secs in the course of 53 laps, "Considering this, I am quite happy about how the day went.

"We did have a couple of issues, so I didn't run as much as I would have liked. With new tyres, I had a problem with the hydraulic pressure and, when I tried out the slick tyres, there was a problem on the diff, so we didn't get a proper idea of how the tyres will work. All the same, I do think it's been a positive day and a good basis for tomorrow."

Fisichella will return to the cockpit on day two of the test, where he will be partnered by Christian Klien, who returns to the set-up after an impressive outing in Barcelona last month.

The Austrian, along with the equally impressive Tonio Liuzzi, remains the most popular tip for a race seat with Force India next season - with Adrian Sutil likely to fill the other cockpit provided he is not seconded by McLaren. Fisichella, however, is keen to keep a toehold in F1 and will look to use his experience to persuade Force India that he can play a pivotal role in its development from tailender to, at least, midfield regular in 2008.

The Italian will face stiff opposition for that role too, however, with Ralf Schumacher due to test with the team at the end of the week, and Montagny looking to break back into a race role after his limited programme with Super Aguri in 2006.

F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, no doubt enthused by the arrival of talents such as Sutil and Lewis Hamilton in 2007, has already urged both Fisichella and Schumacher to walk away, but the urge to put their reputations on the line clearly remains.

 

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