Fisichella wins on the podium, at last

Giancarlo Fisichella found out on Sunday what it felt like to celebrate a grand prix victory on the same day as the race rather than a week later.

The Italian's cruise to the chequered flag in the Australian season-opener made up for the emptiness of 2003 when, due to a timing mix-up, he was recognised as winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix days after everyone had gone home.

It also ended the Renault driver's status as a one-hit wonder, albeit a highly-regarded one, whose sole Formula One triumph before Melbourne could comfortably be described as freakish.

That win, for struggling Jordan, came against all the odds in a rain-soaked race at Interlagos that was stopped a lap after Fisichella had taken the lead.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was declared winner on the afternoon, before handing the trophy to Fisichella at the following race at Imola in Italy in a low-key ceremony before a smattering of fans.

Sunday's was a proper victory, Fisichella hailed by the crowd and cheering mechanics as he sprayed the champagne.

"It was about time," he said after being pushed down the pitlane while standing up in his car, arms raised like a conquering Roman emperor.

Visiting Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage handed him his black cowboy hat as a trophy.

"It was nice to have the possibility to celebrate my victory from the right position on the podium," Fisichella said.

"It has been a fantastic race...we are in really good shape and it is the best start of my career. To win the first race of the season is great and I am really, really happy."

Luck played a part in Sunday's win with the Roman being favoured by the fickle weather that rained on his principal rivals' hopes.

He qualified on pole, only his second to date, after the heavens opened on Saturday just as he completed his quick lap and did not look back.

"I was really lucky on Saturday and we were able to manage the big gap between me and the other competitors," he said.

For once, in a career full of wrong moves, Fisichella was confident he was on the right track with championship contenders Renault.

Where he had yearned to join champions Ferrari, as every Italian racing driver does, now he was beating them with every chance of further success.

He joined Renault from Sauber at the end of last season, finally fulfilling his desire to be with a top team after stints with Minardi, Benetton and Jordan.

"It is the first time in my life that I drive a car with a lot of potential, a good car which has been quick and consistent from the beginning to end," said the 32-year-old.

"This is great for me, after 10 years in Formula One.

"I never showed my talent because I never drove the right car. Yes, I won in Brazil in wet conditions a couple of years ago but the rest of the season was very frustrating," he added.

"So this year I've got a great car and I don't want to lose the opportunity to show my talent and to win races."
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