with Richard Drew
I guess a Hollywood screenplay couldn't have pitched it better. An Italian driver drafted into the Italian team with a debut at the Italian Grand Prix. Giancarlo Fisichella certainly can't believe his luck. For him, the planets are certainly all aligned. Of course, there's more than a little pressure associated with such situations, but at 36 there's a huge amount of experience that Fisichella can draw upon.
There aren't too many happy endings in Formula One, too many dignified exits for drivers. This may be one of the few. Although, like many others in the sport, Fisichella may not have fulfilled his true potential, the end days of his career are working out just fine.
It's more than can be said for Luca Badoer. The hapless Italian returns to the ranks at Ferrari after a less than stellar two races. Even with the 2009 car, it is something of an embarrassment to qualify at the back of the grid not once but twice. He thought the media speculation hadn't helped him. In reality it was the breathtaking lack of speed, especially when his teammate won the race in Spa. I had argued that Ferrari should have promoted from within and have faith with reserve drivers, but surely Marc Gene was the man to go to.
The focus of the media now will be on Fisichella, a man who seems to be well liked and who likes to give back a little to the sport that has been his life. He has his own team in the support GP2 series. He comes to the team in fine fettle, having bagged pole position and second place on the podium in Belgium.
Ironically, the man who beat him was his new teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and a lot of the reason he was beaten into second was Ferrari's use of Kers (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems). The extra horsepower a car gets when the magic button is pressed can make a big difference.
At the start of the season it seemed to be one of the key innovations. But the majority of teams felt the speed boost was literally outweighed by the extra kilograms the car had to lug around the circuit.
It didn't matter at first, as many of the bigger teams that employed it had awful cars anyway, so the likes of Brawn and Red Bull won at will. Teams such as BMW decided it wasn't worth the hassle and dropped it. But the big budget teams like McLaren and Ferrari have eventually found form, as you might expect given the amount of resources poured in, and Kers has started to find favour again.
Renault will bring back Kers for this weekend in Monza, the first time they have done so since May. Monza is a fast circuit that suits Kers and Renault reckon it will be worth a quarter of a second a lap in the race. Given the boost from the grid that we have seen from Ferrari and McLaren, it seems a bit of a no-brainer to use it.
Interestingly, Renault's decision also comes from qualifying. Pat Symonds, the team's head of engineering, pointed out that if you use the boost button just before starting a hot lap and then again during the lap itself the advantage is more than a quarter of a second on the timed lap. Given the long drag from start to the first corner at Monza, Symonds also calculates that Kers cars will have a 15-metre advantage in those first few seconds.
It is highly likely that Kers will not feature next season, and that on balance will be a good thing. Either everyone should be compelled to use it, or no one should use it. Otherwise good racing is compromised as we saw in Belgium. Last week, Fisichella would have hated Kers. Now, in his shiny new red overalls, I'm sure he loves it to pieces.