Giancarlo Fisichella: Making amends

Last year's European GP was both a high and a low point in Giancarlo Fisichella's F1 career. As all around him hit trouble the Italian surged into the lead of the chaotic wet-and-dry race. And then like so many before him, he threw it away by skating off and hitting the tyre wall

Giancarlo Fisichella: Making amends

A maiden GP win still eludes the Italian, but at the Nurburgring last weekend he went a long way to making amends for last year's indiscretion. Fifth place may not look much on its own, but in a race where both Ferraris and both McLarens finish, other drivers can't expect much more, even when rain appears to level the playing field a little.

Having had a tough time since his second place in Brazil, Fisichella wore a big smile as he sat with team boss Flavio Briatore in the Benetton motorhome, both men digging into a welcome plate of pasta after enduring a freezing and very wet afternoon. 'Fisi' admitted that last year's shunt had played on his mind.

"Yes, because of that I drove carefully!", he smiled. "I was pushing, but not at the limit. Fifth position behind McLaren and Ferrari is the maximum you can get."

It nearly went wrong at the start. The run down to the first corner was a little fraught, and well before the notorious first chicane Giancarlo had a bump with the Jordan of countryman Jarno Trulli. The latter crawled round and parked with one wheel at a drunken angle, but Fisichella escaped unhindered, and muscled it around Turn 1 with Eddie Irvine's Jaguar.

"I made a good start, but then the people in front of me closed the door. I touched Trulli on the rear tyre after 100 metres. He had a problem with the suspension I think, but my car was OK."

Having successfully kept Irvine behind, he soon moved up from seventh to fifth.

"After that I think I did a good job, especially when I overtook Villeneuve. It was already a bit wet by then. The conditions were very difficult, and when it started raining, it was difficult with the dry tyres. Then I changed to wets."

The timing of the stop was crucial.

"Yes it was good, but maybe it would have been better to stop one or two laps earlier to change to wet tyres. Still, we did a good job with the pit-stop."

Johnny Herbert was the first to pit, on lap 12, and Giancarlo didn't come in until lap 15. Fortunately for him, of the group of cars immediately behind only Pedro de la Rosa stopped earlier - by one lap. That was still enough to put the Spaniard ahead of the Benetton. However, Giancarlo had leapfrogged Rubens Barrichello, who stayed out too long, so he remained fifth. Within a few laps he'd nipped by the Arrows in a great move at the chicane to gain fourth, but then Barrichello re-passed Giancarlo on lap 32, and fifth was the position he held to the end, apart from the laps just after his second stop.

"The car had quite a good balance. We could have improved the entry to the corners, because there was understeer and then at the exit the traction was a little poor. I had big snap oversteer a few times, but I never went on the grass. I'm very pleased. I was confident already before starting the weekend, and I'm confident for the next two races."

Benetton continues to display topsy-turvy form, showing well at circuits which have suited the team in the past. Some of the tracks coming up will certainly get Giancarlo's full attention.

"We are looking forward to the next races, especially Monte Carlo. I hope to score points again and get on the podium. And Montreal is my circuit! We don't know why some places suit us, but now there are a few good races for us."

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