JUNE 21, 1999
Fisichella "99% sure" to stay at Benetton
IN an effort to dampen speculation that Giancarlo Fisichella will leave Benetton at the end of the year to join either Ferrari or Jordan, the Enstone team has announced that the Italian has two more years to run on his Benetton contract and quoted him as saying that "I am 99% sure to stay in 2000".
In the cynical world of F1 this means that Fisichella's future is anything but settled and Jordan remains the team most likely to try to lure him away - probably with a financial settlement for Benetton. Much depends on Renault's decision about Formula 1. If the French car company announces that it will be building a new engine for 2001, Fisichella may decide it is wise to stay at Benetton and become Renault's leading driver in two years. If not, the 26-year-old Roman may look at a deal to use the new Mugen-badged Honda engine with Jordan.
Without a commitment from Renault, Benetton faces a difficult future and Fisichella is already frustrated after two unsuccessful years with the team. The loss of Fisichella would be blow to the team but there is little point in trying to keep a driver who wants to move elsewhere. A better move would be to sign up another name driver - in the hope that it might be attractive to Renault.
The obvious choice would be Olivier Panis, who is looking increasingly unlikely to stay at Prost Grand Prix. Panis has few choices for the future and his presence at Benetton might help convince Renault to make an F1 comeback.