Giancarlo Fisichella is an Italian racing driver who made his name in Formula 1 but later had a successful career in endurance racing, scoring two GT class wins at Le Mans 24 Hours and winning the FIA WEC GT title in 2012.
Fisichella recorded 229 starts in the Formula One World Championship between 1996 and 2009, driving for seven different teams and scoring three wins and 19 podiums. He started sports car career in 2010, scoring two Le Mans wins and three more podiums since then.
Excellent results in karting racing
He was born on January 14, 1973, in Rome and as an 11-year-old boy began to race karting. Over the years Giancarlo was extremely successful at the national level, winning almost every title.
In 1988, he debuted on the international stage and won the pole position for the World Championship event, but retired from the race while he was leading.
In 1989 Fisichella was a runner-up in European Junior Championship and 4th in the World Championship, but won the International Championship title, starting the race from pole position. Until the end of 1991, he also was 2nd in the World Cup and again in European Championship.
Start of the formula racing career
From 1992 to 1994 Fisichella competed in the Italian Formula 3 championship. After finishing 8th in his rookie year, Giancarlo moved up to the 3rd place in 1993 before winning the title in the following year, scoring 11 wins out of 20 races.
During that period, talented Italian also was the winner of the Formula 3 Grand Prix de Monaco in 1994, and also appeared as a guest in British Formula 3. He also raced twice in Macau Grand Prix but failed to finish the races.
Competing in DTM while waiting a chance in Formula 1
In 1995 Fisichella became reserve driver of Minardi F1 Team but had to keep his racing form sharp, so he competed with Alfa Corse team in Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft and International Touring Car Championship but without some serious success.
Giancarlo debuted in Formula 1 with Minardi in 1996 but he did not compete the full season. The Italian raced in eight Grand Prix but retired from five. His best result was the 8th place in Canada. After he was released from Minardi, Fisichella returned to ITCC and finished 6th what was a solid result considering he didn’t win any race.
Fisichella joined Jordan F1 team in 1997
Giancarlo’s talent was spotted by many teams. He had a test with Ferrari, but it Jordan team was the one who acquired the services of the Italian driver. Fisichella did very well in his first full-time season. In the Canadian Grand Prix, he earned maiden podium finish after taking the 3rd place but the best result was the 2nd place in Belgium when he lost to Michael Schumacher.
After the race at Spa, it was announced that the Italian signed with Benetton for the 1998 campaign what had to be a step forward but later it turned out that the timing of the move was bad.
Four years with Benetton
In 1998 Benetton team was left without new engine after Renault’s withdrawal from the Formula 1. However, despite having the modified old engine, the team did relatively well. For the first time, the Italian won the pole position. It was for the Austrian Grand Prix but he retired from the race after a collision with Jean Alesi. Fisichella finished 2nd in Monaco in Canada and scored in three other races before finishing 9th overall.
The following season was pretty similar. Fisichella scored in three of four opening races, later in the season he again finished 2nd in the Canadian Grand Prix, but the second half of the campaign was really poor, marked with many retirements. At the end of the year, Fisichella again was 9th in the Drivers’ Championship.
For the third year in a row, Fisichella had a season marked by ups and downs. The start of 2000 was surprisingly good after the 2nd place in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Later in the season, the Benetton driver finished 3rd in Monaco and Canada but the second part of campaign again proved to be disastrous, with many retirements and without points. The 6th place in the championship was the best Giancarlo’s result so far but it was obvious that he can achieve more.
In 2001, his last year with Benetton, Fisichella dropped to the 11th position in the Formula 1 championship. He was able to score points only thrice, with 3rd place at Spa as the only bright moment of the season.
Return to Jordan and maiden F1 victory
Fisichella rejoined Jordan team in 2002 and spent there two years. The team never had a really competitive car, so the results were modest. Just like in the previous years, Giancarlo performed best in the middle of the season. He finished 5th in Austria, Monaco, and Canada. Later was 6th in Hungary and eventually finishing 11th in the final classification.
The big momentum in the career of the Italian driver arrived in 2003 when he scored his maiden Formula 1 win. Fisichella triumphed in the Brazilian Grand Prix in the very controversial circumstances. The race was red-flagged and later decided by a court case. However, Giancarlo managed to score only once more and finished 12th overall.
Short spell with Sauber and new beginning with Renault
Fisichella was unhappy in Jordan, so he left the team to join Sauber in 2004. Team’s ambitions were bigger than the possibilities. After a slow start of the season, Fisichella’s results later improved and he scored in nine races, almost regularly outpacing his teammate Felipe Massa. The 4th place in the Canadian Grand Prix was his best result in the season which he finished 11th overall.
In 2005, Fisichella joined Renault team. The French manufacturer was fairly ambitious and Giancarlo finally drove for the team which was capable of achieving big things. The start of the season was perfect after Fisichella won the Australian Grand Prix, but that was followed by three retirements. He recovered over the season and in the last stage of the campaign did exceptionally well, taking 3rd place in Italy and 2nd in Japan.
The season 2006 was the best
In the following year, Giancarlo reached the peak of his Formula 1 career. He finished 4th in the Drivers’ championship, failing to score only twice, both time because of the retirement. Italian driver won the Malaysian Grand Prix, finished 3rd in Spain, USA, China, and Japan, and scored in each race he has finished.
Fisichella was promoted to the team’s first driver in the following year, but Renault’s car wasn’t as good as in the previous season. Giancarlo was able to pick points in most of the races during the first half of the season but in the second half, he scored only once. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when he dropped to the 8th place in the final standings.
Fisichella scored maiden points for Force India
Italian driver arrived in Force India team in 2008 which was formed a couple of months earlier. With his experience, Giancarlo helped the team to make its first steps in the most popular championship, but the results were poor, as it was expected. For the first time in his career, Fisichella was unable to score a single point and finished 19th overall what was his worst result during Formula 1 career.
However, the following season was slightly better. Interestingly, he scored only once, finishing 2nd in the Belgian Grand Prix after starting from pole position. That was the first podium finish in the team’s history as well as the first points. That was his last race for the Indian team after which Fisichella’s dream became true.
Giancarlo joined Scuderia Ferrari in 2009
Five races before the end of the 2009 season, Fisichella signed with Ferrari for the remainder of the campaign and to be a reserve driver in 2010. Unfortunately, he couldn’t score in the final stage of 2009 season, while in the following year he acted as a test and reserve driver, before being replaced with Jules Bianchi.
Giancarlo’s F1 career ended but he stayed with Ferrari and began a new chapter in his career. Fisichella debuted in the endurance racing and over the years was able to achieve better results than in the Formula 1.
2012 - Le Mans victory and FIA WEC title
During 2010, Italian driver raced in the Le Mans Series, driving for AF Corse, one of the best Ferrari-backed teams. He finished the season as a runner-up in GT2 class, while on his debut in Le Mans 24h, driving alongside Toni Vilander and Jean Alesi, he was 4th in the class.
In the following campaign, Fisichella was teamed with Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni and finished 2nd in the class in the world’s most famous endurance race. The following season was even better. Fisichella scored his first win at Le Mans, driving AF Corse’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 alongside Bruni and Vilander. They also won other four races en route to the FIA WEC championship title in GT2 class.
One more Le Mans victory in 2014
With the same co-drivers, Fisichella in 2014 triumphed at Le Mans for the second time. Among the other notable results he achieved in the endurance racing was 2nd place in the World Endurance Championship, victory in Petit Le Mans in 2011, 2nd place in the class in 2016 Le Mans 24h driving for Risi Competizione.
Over the years, Fisichella also successfully competed in the IMSA United SportsCar Championship and also in the Blancpain GT Series.