Ferrari yesterday confirmed that Giancarlo Fisichella will drive their second car alongside the Belgian Grand Prix winner, Kimi Raikkonen, in next weekend's Italian GP at Monza.
Though Felipe Massa's latest round of neurological tests in Miami have been encouraging, the Brazilian, who was injured during qualifying for the Hungarian GP on 25 July, will probably not return until 2010, and after the test driver Luca Badoer's unimpressive outings at Valencia and Spa the Scuderia desperately need someone faster for their home race. Fisichella fitted the bill after a storming drive to second place last weekend.
Force India, Fisichella's team, said discussions with Ferrari had begun only in the last 24 hours, once Massa's situation became clearer. The team's owner, Vijay Mallya, said: "Giancarlo and his management team approached me yesterday with the Ferrari 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. Furthermore, the agreement will secure his long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when he has made such a vital contribution to Force India."
Inevitably, there has been speculation about financial arrangements, as Force India are believed still to owe Ferrari $5.3m (£3.2m) for their 2008 engine supply, but Mallya denied that had been a factor. "We we have not agreed any financial settlement with Ferrari," he said. "This agreement has been made for the good of Giancarlo and the sport in general."
Vitantonio Liuzzi will step into Fisichella's vacated seat alongside Adrian Sutil.