Fisichella Sees Sauber as Stepping Stone

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella hopes Sauber can provide him with the stepping stone to a winning future with Formula One champions Ferrari or Williams.

Fisichella Sees Sauber as Stepping Stone

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella hopes Sauber can provide him with the stepping stone to a winning future with Formula One champions Ferrari or Williams.

The Roman, surprise winner of last year's chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix for Jordan, appeared in Sauber overalls on Monday for the launch of the Ferrari-powered Swiss team's new C23 challenger.

The 30-year-old said he will test for Ferrari this year and declared himself mentally stronger than ever ahead of what promises to be a make-or-break season for his hopes of racing for a top team.

Ferrari have yet to confirm Brazilian Rubens Barrichello as World Champion Michael Schumacher's teammate after 2004, while Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya is leaving Williams for McLaren at the end of the year.

"The dream for me is obviously to drive in the future for one of the three top teams - Ferrari, McLaren or Williams," said Fisichella. "So it's very important to do a good season for the Sauber team, score a lot of points."

Asked whether he wanted Montoya's drive, one of the most coveted in Formula One, he replied: "Of course."

Although he has a two-year contract with Peter Sauber's team, Fisichella said that could be dealt with.

"I spoke with Peter about that and he told me that if there was a good offer, we talk together and decide together. He said 'If you want to move, it is not a problem.'.

"It happened already with (Kimi) Raikkonen," he added, referring to the Finn's move to McLaren in 2002 after just one season with Sauber.

Massa Threat

Fisichella's teammate this year is young Brazilian Felipe Massa, Ferrari's 2003 test driver who raced for Sauber in 2002 and is managed by Nicolas Todt, the son of Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt. The Italian was confident he could see off Massa's challenge.

"It is quite important to have a teammate like Felipe ... of course my target is to beat him everywhere, any time. I'll do my best," he said.

Fisichella said he had been pleased by his first taste of the Sauber, even if it was last year's car.

"The engine was strong enough, very reliable and especially easy to drive," he said. "And now I'm looking forward because we will use the same specification as Ferrari, the 2004 engine and for the first time the Ferrari gearbox.

"After last year, anything can happen - because last year the Jordan car was not competitive but I won a race."

Fisichella will drive the new Sauber for the first time at the Valencia circuit in Spain on Wednesday, his 31st birthday.

"Always at the beginning of the year you say this year is very important for me," he said. "I always say that. But physically and mentally I feel stronger than last year, stronger than the past. This is very important for a driver."

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