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September 4, 2009

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Fisichella to join Ferrari

FORCE India agreed yesterday to release Giancarlo Fisichella 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 longtime test driver, Luca Badoer, qualified last and finished no better than 14th in his first two races since stepping in for the Brazilian.
Ferrari's home race - the Italian Grand Prix in Monza - is next, on September 13.
"Giancarlo and his management team approached me yesterday with the proposal from Ferrari," Force India chairman and team principal Vijay Mallya said in a statement. "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."
Massa is not expected to return until next season after a serious accident 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 jeopardize this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India," Mallya said.
Fisichella finished second to Raikkonen in last weekend's Belgian GP, giving Force India its first points in Formula One. Five races remain.
"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."
Force India said it will announce a replacement in the next few days.
Meanwhile, McLaren's world champion Lewis Hamilton feels that Formula One could be in for more surprises at the Italian GP because of the ban on testing.
Force India and Fisichella caused a major upset in Belgium last weekend by taking a shock pole position and then finishing second for the team's first points in 30 starts.
Hamilton said Monza could be as unpredictable, with new cost-cutting measures ruling out any pre-race testing at the high-speed circuit.
"I think Monza is going to be quite a bit different from in the past because we're not testing there before the race," he said on his Website.


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