The F1 World Championship is ready to raise the curtain with the first session of collective tests on Barcellona’s track. Waiting to see the new single-seaters in action, www.minardi.it has had the pleasure to meet Giancarlo Fisichella who is just back from the 24 Hours of Daytona with his Ferrari 488 GTE. We continue our path with the drivers who contributed to make Minardi a great team, writing important pages of its history. The driver from Rome started his long career in Faenza.
Let’s step back to 1995, you were a Minardi tester, and you became an official driver the following year. How your first contact with Gian Carlo Minardi occurred?
In 1993 I was coming from a good season in F3. At that time, I was sponsored by Marlboro, as the Minardi Team. At the end of the season, Gian Carlo made me try Formula 1 on the Fiorano track. A dream came true. From F3 to F1. I did a very good test, and in 1995 I became a tester for Faenza.
Would you tell us something about your debut season: eight Gp and an eight place in Canada.
In 1996 I should have been a tester/third driver. Ten days before the Australian Gp, I received an unexpected call by Gian Carlo to tell me I would have raced as a official driver. I was in seventh heaven because Taki Inoue was going to race. It all started from there. I was a F1 driver. It was a good season, even if we had some reliability trouble. Undoubtedly, the Minardi Team was a good entity.
What has Gian Carlo Minardi taught you ? What did you learn in his team?
It was a very important experience. Thanks to Minardi, I fulfilled my dream becoming a Formula 1 driver. I still remember my first briefing. I was in the same room along with my idols, Schumacher, Berger, and Alesi. I’ll never forget that moments.
In your opinion, what was Gian Carlo’s key strength point during his years in F1. A small team that achieved 340 GP.
A small entity that was able to go on thanks its forces and to Gian Carlo’s passion. They struggled against colossuses and official manufacturers just to stay in the Circus. Within the team I met extraordinary engineers and mechanics. I really felt at home. Gian Carlo is a person who has the passion for this sport in his heart.
As many other talented drivers, your career started in Faenza. Unfortunately, today Italy has no standard-bearers in F1.
Unfortunately, today more than ever, what it counts are the budgets that a driver can bring with him. Entering F1 is very difficult. Ferrari has conducted the FDA project since some year, and I am sure the next driver will come from this program. Without that tragic weekend in Japan that tore us Jules Bianchi, today he would have been in a top team. There are many interesting names like Fuoco, Giovinazzi, and Ghiotto, just to name the first three.
Your great career began in Faenza among Jordan, Benetton, Sauber, Renault, Force India, and Ferrari. 231 GP and 275 points. Who was the toughest among your team-mates?
Undoubtedly, Fernando Alonso, strangely enough a driver grown in Minardi. Together we won two titles with Renault.
Besides Minardi, also Flavio Briatore had an important role in your career. Could you make a comparison between these two leading people in motorsport?
Gian Carlo is surely the most important person because he gave me the opportunity to debut in Formula 1. In 1997, after the test at Estoril, Briatore put me under agreement and he initially put me in the hands of Jordan. They are two important people who wrote important pages of the history of this sport. They have been two great managers who have discovered great drivers.
At Ferrari side, you migrated to endurance races and, among other things, you won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the marathon par excellence, twice. What does it means to a driver?
We are talking about the most important race. It is incredible, exciting and really hard. Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans is something unique. This year, I am going to chase a third victory with the Ferrari 488.
This year, the GP in Azerbaijan is contemporary with Le Mans. Is it for chance or is It a Mr. Ecclestone strategic move? Do you agree with the fact that a F1 driver takes part to Le Mans?
Last year I was pleased to see Nico Hulkenberg winning. One should have the chance to choose. Surely this year’s conjunction is a pity.
The new Ferrari 488 debuted with you in Daytona. What are the key strengths of this car compared to the 458 Italia one, and what are your expectations for the season?
There have been some improvements in the grip, in the aerodynamic, in the driving possibilities and in the impact absorbing structure in the curb passages.
Unfortunately, in Daytona we were penalized by BOP. This year I’ll be with Risi Competizione, along with Toni Vilander, a driver with whom I am very familiar because we won together at Le Mans. He is an extraordinary driver with a great experience in endurance. I hope to win the championship, starting from the next event: the 12 Hours of Sebring in mid-March.