Giancarlo Fisichella has been given the green light by Force India to race for Ferrari for the remainder of the season, with immediate effect.
In a seemingly unbridled, altruistic act in the often cut-throat world of Formula One, Force India insisted that no money had changed hands and the switch had been made in good faith for the sake of the veteran driver and the sport itself.
“Following extensive discussions over the past 24 hours, the Force India Formula One Team has agreed to release Giancarlo Fisichella from his contract to join the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team for the remainder of the 2009 season, starting with immediate effect,” Force India said in a statment on Thursday.
Force India team boss Vijay Mallya said that he would not have stood in the way of the Italian taking a race seat with Ferrari.
“Giancarlo and his management team approached me yesterday (Wednesday) with the proposal from Ferrari,” Mallya said.
“For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception. No one should stand in the way of this.
“Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India.”
Mallya said there had been no financial settlement with Ferrari over the switch of Fisichella, who caused a minor sensation when running Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen close in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix for Force India’s first ever championship points.
“This agreement has been made in good faith and for the good of Giancarlo and the sport in general,” Mallya insisted.
“A competitive Italian driver in a Ferrari for Monza is a positive story for Formula One, which can only help raise the sport’s profile in these difficult times.”
Fisichella would now be expected to make his Ferrari debut at the next Formula One Grand Prix at the Italian circuit of Monza on September 13, most likely taking over from Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer, who has stood in for the injured Felipe Massa at the last two Grands Prix.
Force India have yet to confirm who will replace Fisichella alongside Adrian Sutil.
“We would like to thank Giancarlo for all his help over the past one-and-a-half seasons and for delivering us our first World Championship points last weekend,” Mallya said.
“He has been an integral part of the team and we owe him a great deal for his input behind the scenes and performance out on track. We wish him all the best for the future.
“For Force India, this sport is a team effort and removing one part, even a major one, will not significantly affect our performance. The competitiveness of the team seen in Belgium was a result of hard work in the factory and wind tunnel and we have further developments coming for the final races, so we are confident this momentum can be sustained. We are now looking forward to a strong finish to the season.”
Fisichella praised the Force India team for allowing him to realise a dream.
“I am very grateful to Vijay Mallya for allowing me this opportunity to drive for the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team,” the veteran said.
“It is true that it has always been an ambition to do this, and for Vijay to have allowed it to become a reality is very generous. I hope in my turn I have helped Force India grow up and be on the right path to achieve their own ambitions. They are now a very competitive team and I wish them all the very best.”
Ferrari said in a statement: “We have chosen Fisichella because we can expect him to make a valuable contribution in this final part of the season.
“Giancarlo has shown, throughout his long career that he is fast and competitive and we are therefore proud to be able to run an Italian driver in our home race.
“We wish to thank Luca Badoer for the team spirit he demonstrated in these circumstances: it is a shame he was unable to show his true worth in these last two races, tackled under conditions which anyone would have found difficult.”