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Last Updated:  Friday, 11 April, 2003, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
A talent finally fulfilled
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Giancarlo Fisichella looks rueful as he sprays the champagne on the podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix
Fisichella's hopes were initially dashed
Giancarlo Fisichella can pop the cork on a bottle of his favourite red wine on Friday and celebrate the fact that he is no longer what Eddie Jordan described as "the most talented driver ever in the history of Grand Prix not to have won a race".

Jordan's penchant for hyperbole and spin can at times rival Don King's - so he can be forgiven in the chaotic finish to the accident-strewn finish in Sao Paulo for forgetting about Chris Amon.

Fisichella had yet to experience bad luck on the scale of the New Zealander - a man considered by Jackie Stewart to be one of only two true rivals and yet who who somehow, through bad luck and dodgy career decisions, never stood on top of the podium.

Nevertheless, the decision to overturn the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix ensures that Fisichella has been saved from the grave injustice of potentially going through his Formula One career without a victory.

Just how big an injustice that would have been is clear from the fact that in 2002 he was voted driver of the year by his rivals.

If the victory is given to me, I will be happy, but I will still be irritated
Giancarlo Fisichella

Fisichella has blinding pace - just ask Jenson Button, who was blown away by him when they were team-mates at Benetton in 2001 - as well as a gorgeous delicacy of touch in the wet, which he displayed once again on Sunday.

But while Fisichella undoubtedly deserves a drive in a top team, his chances of ever getting one appear slim.

The reason for that is a combination of his age and the position in which he finds himself in the F1 marketplace.

At 30, the Roman with film-star looks is hardly heading for his bus pass, but in F1 terms he is certainly middle-aged.

Fisichella's Jordan contract runs out at the end of this year and, Brazil notwithstanding, they are not capable of providing him with a car worthy of his talent.

Fisichella had a brief moment of celebration before he being told he had not won
Fisichella celebrates after the race
And Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Renault are unlikely to find vacancies for him.

For one thing, F1 teams are forever looking for the next big thing and for another, there appear to be no vacancies at the top outfits.

Ferrari would shy away from the expectations that would come from putting an Italian of such talent in their team - and anyway Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are contracted until the end of 2004.

The same goes for Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher at Williams - unless rumours of the team's disenchantment with the German are true.

David Coulthard's McLaren contract runs out this year - but team boss Ron Dennis has already passed on Fisichella.

And the Italian has already driven for Renault (nee Benetton), only to be replaced by Jarno Trulli for 2002.

He can be forgiven for betraying a hint of bitterness at not being able to celebrate such an important milestone in the manner he would have wanted.

"If the victory is given to me," he said on Wednesday, "I will be happy, but I will still be irritated that I wasn't able to get on to the top step of the podium and celebrate as I deserved."

Fisichella made his F1 debut for Minardi in 1996 before moving to Jordan, Benetton and back to Jordan again - and he has always been quicker than his team-mates.

His talent has been clear from the very start of his career.

He first came to wider attention as a shy 20-year-old in Formula Three. At that time, he could speak no English but his driving did the talking for him.

In 1994, I was a reporter on the F3 race at the Monaco Grand Prix, and watched as Fisichella controlled it from pole position with great verve and flair.

It was a hugely impressive performance - a view that, a little more importantly, also lodged in the mind of more than one F1 team boss.

Even though Fisichella was not to make his Grand Prix debut for another two years, it was obvious that he had a future at the highest level.

If someone had said then that he would not win another race, I would not have been the only one to wonder how that could be.

And now that win has finally happened, no-one would say Fisichella does not deserve it.






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