At thirty six, Giancarlo Fisichella is under no allusions that he is in the twilight of his Formula One career. But as the Italian veteran reveals, his motivation levels are as high as ever as he gears up for his second year with Force India…
This season will be your 14th in the championship. Are you still excited to be in F1? What keeps your motivation going?
It’s not a difficult question to answer – I still love this job, I like driving F1 cars and I am passionate about motorsport. Plus I am very confident in this new car and with the new partnership with McLaren and Mercedes. It is a very exciting opportunity for the team, and that in itself is enough to keep me motivated. Our car is ready quite late relative to the others, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on it. I want to drive the car as soon as possible.
What have you been doing over the winter?
I had some rest and obviously sent a lot of time with my family. I went to Kenya for the New Year, did a bit of skiing, but also a lot of training for this year. It has been a good break but quite long, after so many days out of the car I really want to get back in!
With a completely new set of regulations, is this interesting for you as a very experienced driver?
I think this year is maybe the biggest change for many years, with KERS, slick tyres, downforce and new aero rules, so it’s very exciting. It would be good to see all the teams mixed up and to be able to fight for points. If the car is good, why not even for the podium?
You’re one of the few drivers in the field who’ve raced on slicks. Do you think this will give you an advantage?
I don’t think so, to be honest. First of all, I drove with them back in 1997 and they were completely different compounds used with completely different cars and engines. In the 12 years since then the cars and the tyres have evolved so much you can’t really compare the two periods. I don’t think there will be much of an advantage having driven on them before.
What will be the biggest challenge for you out of the new regulations?
KERS. It’s a very complicated system that gives at least 60 – 70 horsepower for around six seconds. It could be for us to get the strategy right. It’s also a big challenge for every team to make sure it’s ready at the first race.
And within Force India there have been some changes in the team this year. Are you hopeful this will aid performance?
It’s positive for sure. With Ferrari last year we had a good partnership, they were very professional and the engine was very good, but with McLaren and Mercedes we have a fantastic opportunity to integrate the whole engine, gearbox, hydraulics and KERS system.
The VJM02 is only making its official debut on 1st March – is this a big disadvantage?
It is a disadvantage as it’s important to drive as much as you can before the start of the year to get a feeling with the car and try and establish a good set-up. It’s not easy in just four days, especially with the new rules coming in this year. We are just going to have to try and get as much as we can from these eight days before the season.
Without in-season testing, does this mean there will be a greater onus on Grands Prix Fridays now, especially for Force India with the limited pre-season testing?
I think so. We will try and do as much running as possible, but the problem is that we are limited on the number of engines this year, so you have to balance out putting in miles and keeping the engines.
You’re paired with Adrian for another season. How do you work together?
We work well together, he is a nice guy and very quick. He is focussed even though obviously last year we were struggling as the car was not quick enough. We did our best and in a few races we could have scored points. We will work on this direction together.
Are there any races you’re particularly looking forward to this season?
It’s always nice to discover a new country and city so Abu Dhabi will be good. Anywhere where the driver gets a chance to shine, for example Monte Carlo, which is one of my favourites, is also exciting, and Singapore was great last year. I think this year the first races will be good as for the first time no one really knows what will happen. Also I really like Australia as I won there, so I have great memories.
Can Force India surprise the grid this year?
I hope so, for sure it will be better than last year!