Ferrari, as widely expected have signed Giancarlo Fisichella to replace Luca Badoer in the second Ferrari for Monza, and presumably the remainder of the season.
Quite what events led to this move are unclear to those outside the parties involved, although Force India owner Vijay Mallya was quick to point out that his team “have not agreed any financial settlement with Ferrari” contradicting the belief that Force India's arrears from their Ferrari customer engine deal could force the move.
However, this feels to be a very short term solution for everyone involved, and seems to be the final chapter in Fisichella's journeyman F1 career.
While Fisichella has been a firm favourite to take the seat, especially after his performance at Spa last weekend, there is much argument as to whether it is the smart choice, not just for Ferrari to take him on, but for Force India to let him go.
There are many people, ranging from professional journalists to casual observers who hoped that Ferrari would take a chance on promoting someone from the junior formula, with Jules Bianchi, currently racing in the F3 Euroseries, and Italian Formula 2 (and a man who has already tested a Ferrari F1 car) driver Mirko Bortolotti being named.
Neither, hopefully, could be any worse than Luca Badoer, and at least Ferrari would be seen to be doing something for the future of the team, especially in an era when more and more teams are choosing to promote drivers from within rather than sign drivers from other teams. With the added bonus of giving them seat time despite the testing ban promoting a young driver may not bring immediate results, but could pay off in the long term.
I'm not doubting Fisichella's speed, and it is, of course, a dream job for any Italian, and that's probably why he appears to have had no qualms about taking the offer, but you can't help but think it's his F1 swansong. Ferrari are going to use him for the remainder of the season, before pushing him off, at least as far as test driver.
Fisichella may well land in one of the new teams entering F1 in 2010, filling the same 'experienced head' seat he initially took at Force India, but he appears to have been presented with his dream job at precisely the wrong moment of his career.
The move takes him out of the Force India loop, at a time when the team is moving forward in leaps and bounds and so opens the door for (presumably as it's unconfirmed at the time of writing) Tonio Liuzzi, to get both feet in the door of the second race seat for 2010. However, Force India lose Fisichella's input to any further developments to the car, part of the “vital contribution” Mallya credits him with, and while Liuzzi's tested the car, Badoer's shown us exactly how much straight line testing prepares you for racing. And Luizzi is arguably the best of poor options. Could Force India be the ones to take on a young prospect from the feeder series, or even (if there is no financial element to the Ferrari move) a pay driver to help balance the books? If they do they may suffer even worse results, and the building momentum lost as they have to try and get a new driver up to speed.
If Force India are truly getting nothing out of the move, then they are definitely the losers of this deal, but everyone may suffer in the long term.