Q & A with Giancarlo Fisichella

Like fellow veteran Rubens Barrichello, Giancarlo Fisichella finished the 2008 season surrounded by speculation that he could be out of Formula 1

Q & A with Giancarlo Fisichella

Yet not only have the duo returned for another season, they both look set for a revival of fortunes. For Barrichello it means joining the hunt for wins, while for Fisichella it appears he could have a chance to fight for points later this season.

AUTOSPORT caught up with Fisichella in Melbourne on Wednesday to find out why the Italian is still motivated, why it will take some time for Force India to find its feet and why 2009 is an important year for him.

Have you had a good winter?

Giancarlo Fisichella: Yes, it was a good winter. It was nice to be with the family, take my time relaxing. I went for the New Year to Kenya and I went skiing, did some training - easy!

Last season was a difficult year with the car pegged to the back of the grid for much of the season. But you have a new technical partner now, and new structure, so you must be quite optimistic?

GF: Yes. I was quite optimistic after the first test, but I am not so excited now because unfortunately the car came late and we haven't tested enough. Mechanically the car looks alright, with the engine and gearbox running very well, but we need downforce.

We are struggling with the grip, so for the first four races away from Europe I think we are going to struggle like last year. But hopefully when we come back in Barcelona we will have KERS and a new package, I hope it is a good step forward. The midfield may be a little bit difficult, but we will see.

Was there any point last season when you asked yourself if you really wanted to continue in F1?

GF: No. It was really tough mentally for me you know. In my career I usually drove a good car and won races. I went many times on the podium so it wasn't easy to be always in the last row.

Sometimes it was encouraging because I was 16th or 17th - and very close to getting into Q2. At Monza it was very nice in qualifying, I was 11th and quicker than [Lewis] Hamilton and [Kimi] Raikkonen, and I just missed Q3 by one hundredth of a second.

So sometimes it was very encouraging, it was good. In Barcelona it was quite competitive in the race, and in Singapore I was running third or fourth with a strategy even without the safety car.

In Brazil I was fourth or fifth, and I called for the grooved tyres in difficult conditions when it was very wet. Sometimes it was very frustrating, and sometimes it was encouraging. But you know, it is my job and I like this sport - and I still want to go ahead.

This year is a very important year for me. I need to know what I have to do for the future. Obviously another difficult season means it will be difficult to continue, but I am looking forward.

What is the thing that keeps motivating you to get out of bed in the morning excited to be a Formula 1 driver?

GF: After 14 years... now it is not like that! But that's not because I have lost motivation, I am still motivated and I still like this sport. I want to fight, but after 14 years when I wake up F1 is not the first problem I think about.

Sometimes you need a rest, to be with your family and not worrying about F1 - instead being a normal guy.

The fact that Rubens has done all those races and people were writing him off last year, yet now he is in contention for race wins and even the championship, does that encourage you?

GF: Yes, that is F1! Anything can happen. One year ago Rubens at the end of the season, he was finished and it looked over. Now he is back again, and probably with a winning car.

So I am happy for him because he is a very nice guy, a big friend of mine, and I wish to him all the best. And it could happen to me. I don't say this year we can have a car to win or get on the podium but it would be nice to score points. If we can score points we can be very motivated and it can be very good.

Do you need to see a step forward yourself if you are to carry on in F1?

GF: Yes, I need to see some kind of progress for sure. Doing another season running in the last row, is not easy mentally after 14 years.

And can you see the possibility for progress with the new structure?

GF: Yes. We have that commitment with McLaren, but at the moment they are struggling a little bit. So this season we have to grow up, McLaren and us together, we can make a step forward.

How is the Mercedes-Benz engine?

GF: It is very good. I am really, really happy with the Mercedes-Benz engine. It is really powerful. Last year we were running 19,000rpm and this year I was running straight away with 18,000rpm, and 1000rpm is a lot to feel the power, but I can still feel it is a strong engine.

Over the winter there was the dispute between the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) and the FIA over the superlicence price fees. That has now been sorted out and the FIA has agreed to reduce the fee for 2010. Are you happy about that?

GF: Yes, I am happy about that. I am happy about the effort of the GPDA to hold together, even if there are four or five guys who are not members, they came with us on this direction.

We have been all together which is good, because Max Mosley was not happy about what we asked of him. Now for next year the fee will be reduced, because it is very, very expensive.

Has the GPDA got some of its authority back now do you think?

GF: Not now, because the GPDA has always been a strong group. So far in many years we did many things, especially for the safety. That is the most important thing. Talking about that, about the superlicence which is not part of safety, was good.

Are there any moves to try and get guys like Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa or Kimi Raikkonen on board officially?

GF: Yes. We try to have them because they are strong, as they are the three or four men with the best opportunity. There is Kimi and Lewis who are world champions, so the GPDA could be much stronger if they come with us.

And you agree that GPDA chairman Pedro de la Rosa is doing a good job?

GF: Pedro is doing a very good job. He is a nice guy too. He is very concentrated on his work with McLaren, but he spends a lot of time and effort on the GPDA.

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