On Sunday, Fisi – nicknamed the ‘Roman Cockney’, presumably for his cheery, streetwise demeanour and a love of whelks and jellied eels – will attempt to become the first Italian to win the Monza GP since Ludovico Scarfiotti way back in 1966. Driving for Ferrari in his very first race for the Scuderia. In front of 100,000 baying Italians. Talk about pressure.
Though the 36-year-old’s route to the Ferrari race seat has been convoluted to say the least – Massa’s injury followed by Schumi’s bad neck followed by Luca Badoer’s extraordinary lack of pace – the man from Rome is, in true Cockney fashion, bleedin’ chuffed to be there.
“I’m in seventh heaven,” Fisichella said this week. “I still can’t believe it, that the dream of my life comes true. I want to thank Ferrari.”
So, can he win it? In a word, yes. Maybe. Monza is a fast track with a couple of long straights that should favour the KERS teams – Ferrari, McLaren and Renault, the latter running it for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May – and one that Fisichella knows well, having raced there since his F3 days back in 1992.
He’s on a hot run of form, too, after that brilliant second place for Force India in the Belgian Grand Prix. A couple of sceptics in the Top Gear office have suggested that he could have pushed Raikkonen even closer for the win, but eased off, both to make sure of Force India’s first ever points… and to keep on the right side of his future employers.
Top Gear is about to jump on a Milan-bound plane to spend the weekend hanging out with the tifosi – the legendary Italian F1 faithful who are already setting up their temporary stands around Monza.
We’ll do our best to post some updates from trackside, but if you don’t hear from us, assume our flimsy cover (Ferrari flags and comedy moustaches, obviously) has been blown and we’ve been torn limb from limb for being feckless British interlopers…