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The fight for Fisichella

THE battle between Benetton and Jordan for the services of Giancarlo Fisichella goes to the High Court in London this week. A preliminary hearing last week persuaded a judge that the case needs to be settled immediately because of the need to find a replacement driver - which may affect the sponsorship situation of the teams involved.

The case will be heard on either Wednesday or Thursday. The FIA Contract Recognition Board considered the case after the Belgian Grand Prix and concluded that according to the information they have in Geneva that Fisichella has a two-year contract with Jordan. It is worth noting that the FIA Contract Recognition does not actually consider the full contract unless a dispute develops. They hold the contracts in sealed envelopes to which are attached letters stating the duration of the contract and the various options that are involved. If there is a dispute over the details of a contract these can be opened but this is an expensive and time-consuming business.

Benetton does not dispute the fact that Fisichella does have a contract with Jordan but argue that there are other conflicting contracts in existence between Jordan and Minardi - which are not lodged with the Contract Recognition Board - which mean that Fisichella is a Benetton driver. Jordan wants the High Court to rule on the legality of these contracts. If the court decides that they are not binding the connection between Fisichella and Benetton will be broken.

In all probability Benetton will retain the young Italian but it remains to be seen how effectively each side deals with the case. If Fisichella does move to Benetton next year Jordan will almost certainly take on Jean Alesi to partner Ralf Schumacher, as Damon Hill does not seem to be in the picture. If Hill goes to Prost, Alesi signs for Jordan and Salo joins Arrows, Sauber is expected to turn to Jarno Trulli.