Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella left Force India to join Ferrari for the rest of the Formula One season.
Ferrari has been anxious to find a better replacement for the injured Felipe Massa after the team’s long-time test driver, Luca Badoer, qualified last and finished no better than 14th in his first two races since stepping in for the Brazilian.
“We have chosen Fisichella because we can expect him to make a valuable contribution in this final part of the season,” Ferrari team director Stefano Domenicali said. “Giancarlo has shown, throughout his long career that he is fast and competitive and we are therefore proud to be able to run an Italian driver in our home race.
The Italian Grand Prix in Monza is next, on September 13.
“We wish to thank Luca Badoer for the team spirit he demonstrated in these circumstances,” Domenicali added. “It is a shame he was unable to show his true worth in these last two races, tackled under conditions which anyone would have found difficult.”
Force India chairman and team principal Vijay Mallya said Fisichella’s management team came to him Wednesday with Ferrari’s proposal.
“For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception. No one should stand in the way of this,” Mallya said.
The 36-year-old Fisichella began his Formula One career in 1996 with Minardi. He has also driven for Jordan, Benetton, Sauber and Renault - compiling three wins and four pole positions, including one at the Belgian GP last weekend.
Massa is not expected to return until next season after an accident almost cost him his life at the Hungarian GP.
With Kimi Raikkonen also under contract, Fisichella’s addition leaves Ferrari’s 2010 plans unclear.
“The agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India,” Mallya said.
Fisichella finished second to Raikkonen in Belgium, giving Force India its first points in Formula One. Five races remain this season.
“We would like to stress that we have not agreed any financial settlement with Ferrari,” Mallya added. “This agreement has been made in good faith and for the good of Giancarlo and the sport in general. A competitive Italian driver in a Ferrari for Monza is a positive story for Formula One, which can only help raise the sport’s profile in these difficult times.”
Fisichella said he was grateful that Mallya gave him this opportunity.
“It is true that it has always been an ambition to do this, and for Vijay to have allowed it to become a reality is very generous,” Fisichella said. “I hope in my turn I have helped Force India grow up and be on the right path to achieve their own ambitions. They are now a very competitive team and I wish them all the very best.’
Force India said it will announce a replacement for Fisichella in the next few days.