JULY 27, 2004
Fisichella at Renault, Webber at Williams
Giancarlo Fisichella will be confirmed on Wednesday as Fernando Alonso's partner at Renault F1 in 2005. It is expected that the announcement will be made at the same time as confirmation that Mark Webber is moving to Williams next year.
Fisichella had a contract to stay at Sauber in 2005 but he also had a clause in that contract which allowed him to move to Williams, Ferrari or McLaren. We hear that Webber's manager Flavio Briatore took advantage of this situation by blocking the Australian's move to Williams unless Frank Williams agreed to negotiate a release for Fisichella from Sauber. Jarno Trulli pre-empted the Fisichella announcement on Sunday when he issued his own statement saying that he is not staying with the team next year.
Trulli is expected to move to Toyota but the German-based team is not planning to make any announcement for some months about its driver line-up. The team has already confirmed that Ralf Schumacher will be one of the two Toyota drivers next year but an early announcement about the second might demotivate the existing drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta. It is possible that Trulli could end up at Williams. He is now negotiating him own deals, having decided that after 10 years he no longer wants to be contracted to Flavio Briatore's British Virgin Island-based management company. Their relationship began back in 1995 when Briatore funded Trulli's drive in the German Formula 3 series in a year-old Kaufmann Motor Service car. He moved on to a Benetton-sponsored Formula 3 drive in 1996 (convenient as Briatore was then managing the Benetton F1 team) and won the German title and in 1997 he moved in at Minardi. When Olivier Panis crashed and broke his legs in Canada Trulli moved to Prost Grand Prix and in Austria he led the race with complete confidence until his car broke. He underlined his talent by finishing fourth in Germany. After that his career stagnated with two years at Prost and then in 2000 he went to Jordan and stayed two years without a major result. With Briatore in charge at Renault, Trulli was given a three-year deal in 2002 and this year he finally came good with his victory at Monaco. Rather than signing him up again and building on that success, Renault has for some inexplicable reason now decided to dump Jarno and go back to Fisichella, who drove for the team without success between 1998 and 2000, Mark Webber having made it clear that he did not want to be a Renault driver next year.
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