Giancarlo Fisichella has been handed a Formula 1 lifeline by Force India, where the 34-year-old Italian will partner Adrian Sutil this season.
With his signing the revamped team has sent out a clear message that its days of taking pay drivers are gone.
Fisichella had been told by Renault team boss Flavio Briatore that he had no future there well before it confirmed the signing of Fernando Alonso. It soon became clear to the Italian and his management that Force India was his only real option.
Before Christmas Fisichella took part in what was in effect a driver shootout with Ralf Schumacher, Tonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien. Although Liuzzi had support within the camp, Fisichella convinced new boss Vijay Mallya that he had both the pace and commitment to lead the team. In contrast Schumacher had a frustrating time before announcing that he was no longer interested in the seat.
Fisichella is already familiar with many of Force India’s personnel since he twice drove for the team in its Jordan guise, first in 1997 and again in 2002-03. He scored an opportunistic wet win in Brazil in his final season.
“I feel motivated and ready to help Force India get points on a regular basis,” he said.
Liuzzi has been signed as the team’s third driver after turning down a chance to retain the same role at Red Bull.