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Q&A with Giancarlo Fisichella
Fisichella in 2007 when he still drove for the Renault team
For its first season under the Force India guise, the team formerly known as Spyker, Midland and Jordan spent much time at the back of the grid this year, but there were a few high points of improvement as the season progressed.

Although neither Giancarlo Fisichella nor Adrian Sutil brought points home, ending in the top 10 in Spain and reaching the Q2 phase of qualifying at the fast Monza track in Italy gave reason for the team to celebrate. At one point, Fisichella even found himself leading the race during the maiden and Safety Car-perturbed Singapore GP.

For Italian veteran Fisichella, better times should lay ahead: the team recently confirmed that he and Sutil will return next year for another season, and the elaborate partnership signed between Force India and McLaren Mercedes can only help bring the team to the next level.

With that in mind, Fisichella reviews his 2008 season and looks forward to the many changes coming into effect with the 2009 championship.

Q: What's your overall feeling on the season?

"It was a difficult season, and we knew it would be. Actually at the beginning of the season in some places we were very close to getting to the top 16 and also reasonably close to the points, quite close to manufacturer teams such as Honda and to other people. It was actually a tough season. We went in the right direction sometimes, but we lost a bit of direction later in the season, and in the last few races we stopped development of the 2008 car so it was very difficult to keep pushing."

Q: You'd been driving for a team that had just won two World Championships (Renault in 2005 and 2006), so was it hard to find yourself near the back of the grid?

"It was tough mentally, but every time I sit in a car I do my best – it's your job, so you have to do as well as you can. I just hope that we have a better car for 2009!"

Q: What were the highlights of this year?

"The best position was 10th in Barcelona. It was a good race as we were fighting for the position rather than being in there by retirements further up the field. In Singapore I was third for a few laps, then second and even one lap I was the leader, which made a pleasant change! Monza was the best qualifying of the year for sure, getting to Q2 was really an achievement, particularly in the difficult conditions – you had to get the timing just right."

"In Valencia I was just 1.3s slower than the quickest, it was a very good lap, but unfortunately I was only 18th. Four or five years ago, when you were 1.3s slower than the quickest, you were fourth or fifth!"

Q: You had some races where you made a good start and were able to hold on to a good position for a while. Was that fun?

"Yes of course, sometimes I kept cars that were much quicker than me behind me, like in Spain and also in Brazil, where Hamilton was behind me for a couple of laps. That was not too bad."

Q: Was it disappointing that there were several races affected by rain or Safety Cars and the team was not able to score any points?

"Exactly, in places like Australia, Monaco, Silverstone it was possible to score and we had different problems in each – in Australia there were the accidents, Monaco I had a gearbox problem and Silverstone the conditions were just so difficult we were on the wrong tire at the wrong time. We were unlucky not to be able to score some points for the team. For sure it's not as you'd hope, but we have to hope that when the chances come in 2009 we will be there."

Q: And of course when you're starting further back you can get involved in first lap incidents...

"It's not easy! When you start at the back it's not easy under braking for the first corner, there's a lot of traffic, everyone wants to overtake, and there is not enough space, and sometimes things happen. It happened in a few races. In Australia I was taken out by Glock or Piquet – in those situations everyone is trying to make up places that you have to be so careful. It would have been good to have gone to the end of the race there, but it didn't happen. We knew qualifying was the weak point and we're trying to make sure it doesn't happen again in '09."

Q: What have you enjoyed most about the year?

"The good thing was the great atmosphere in the team. Even in those conditions the guys were really professional, they were always pushing, and that was good. It was a positive season on that side, maybe because there was less pressure and I had a friendship with everybody."

Q: Had the team changed since you last drove for it as Jordan in 2003?

"I think it's bigger. There are a few new guys, but I knew most of them from the last time I was here. It felt very much like old days sometimes."

Q: What is Vijay (Mallya) like as a boss?

"He's a nice guy, he loves the sport, and he's done a fantastic job. For India it's a great opportunity to be in F1, so they must say 'thank you' to him. I'm sure he's doing quite a lot for India and for us. It is good to have someone who is a positive influence on the team."

Q: Did you enjoy your visits to India at the start of the season?

"It's nice to discover a new country. Obviously it's far away and very different from where I live, but it was good to stay a few days there, and the launch of the car was a nice party."

Q: How do you feel about next season?

"I'm looking forward to it. With the new rules it could all change, especially with the slick tires, and different downforce levels. I think it's very important to build a good car for those rules, and to try to run as soon as possible with the new car with the slicks. With the new partnerships I think it's a great opportunity for us."

Q: Do you think that the team can make a real step forward?

"We have a better chance than this year for sure, but nobody knows how things will work out with the new rules! We’ll only see that in Australia..."
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