Formula One debutant team Force India today confirmed F1 veteran Giancarlo Fisichella to lead its driving team in 2008. The Italian, who celebrates his 35th birthday January 14th, joins German Adrian Sutil, who held onto his seat despite the newly...
Formula One debutant team Force India today confirmed F1 veteran Giancarlo Fisichella to lead its driving team in 2008. The Italian, who celebrates his 35th birthday January 14th, joins German Adrian Sutil, who held onto his seat despite the newly formed Indian team having a wealth of experienced job-shopping F1 drivers from whom to choose. Vitantonio Liuzzi was designated team test driver.
Fisichella joins his new ride from Renault after a less than rousing season as lead driver in defense of the team's constructors' title. Renault finished third behind Ferrari and BMW Sauber after McLaren Mercedes were eliminated from consideration for off-track irregularities. Fisichella placed eighth in the drivers' competition.
"The Force India Formula One Team is a serious project and we wanted to make a statement to this effect with our driver line-up," chairman and managing director Vijay Mallya said. "Money is not the issue now: We need drivers who will push the team and give us direction. The race line-up of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil is a very good one, balancing both speed and experience, and Tonio will provide the team with solid support in his testing program. I think we have a very strong driver line-up for 2008."
Sutil, who finished 19th in the 2007 drivers' competition was the number two driver when he scored the only point last year for Dutch team Spyker, Force India's previous incarnation. Spyker had been Midland and Jordan before that.
Fisichella has 12 years of F1 experience gained with Minardi, Jordan, Benetton, Sauber and Renault. He has scored three victories, captured three pole positions and earned 267 points.
Sutil will contest his second year of the FIA Formula One World Championship after regularly pushing more established drivers last year; earning his first championship point in the Japanese Grand Prix. Sutil was the 2006 Japanese F3 champion and runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in the 2005 F3 EuroSeries.
"I am very happy to stay with Force India for another season," Sutil said. "There was interest from other teams, but the opportunity to stay with a growing team that has strong ambitions is very positive for me at this stage in my career. I am also very excited about the opportunity to work with Giancarlo."
Liuzzi spent three years in F1, first with Red Bull then Scuderia Toro Rosso. The 27-year-old Italian did well in junior formulae, including a dominant victory in the 2004 FIA Formula 3000 championship. He won the CIK Karting title in 2001.
"I am very pleased to be able to help Force India in their testing and development program this year," Liuzzi said. "With increased resources there will be much more input and emphasis into the team's testing, and the test driver's role will be crucial to helping progress."
Fisichella, whose future was widely speculated upon when he failed to wring speed from the Renault, said Force India's team impressed him with professionalism and commitment exhibited during a test at Jerez, Spain.
"I hope my experience will help them achieve," he said. "Contrary to what people may think, this was not my only opportunity; it was the best one."
Other contenders for the Force India posts included Ralf Schumacher, whose stint at Toyota ended and who now appears to be out of F1 after more than a decade, and Christian Klien, the former Red Bull driver who famously turned down other series in order to pursue F1. Klien posted the fastest time in pre-Christmas testing at Jerez.