Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 2006: The Doctor – What might have been
Valentino Rossi is a sporting superstar who transcends his chosen sport. His charisma, his joie-de-vivre and his self-deprecating humour has turned him into an idol for millions.
On this day – eight years ago – Rossi took part in an official Formula One test with other teams present at Valencia.
Rossi first tested a Ferrari at Fiorano – in April 2004 – amid high security. The reasons were very simple; Yamaha ran with Gauloises sponsorship on Michelin tyres, whereas Ferrari were sponsored by Marlboro and used Bridgestone tyres. The press inevitably found out and reported the story but such was his power – within his sporting sphere – that Yamaha forgave him.
Ferrari had provided a car for Rossi as reward for winning the MotoGP title the year before but Rossi had stated that his true love outside of motor-bikes was always rallying.
He had entered and crashed out of Rally Great Britain in 2002, but would compete in the 2006 Rally New Zealand finishing 11th out of 39. Another entry to the British event, in 2008, saw him finish 12th – just over 13 minutes behind the winner Loeb.
From 2005, he competed in the Monza Rally Show and showed sublime talent by beating Colin McRae in similar spec’d WRC cars in his first such event and has gone on to win the event several times since; against the cream of World Rallying.
Ferrari arranged another test session at Fiorano for August 2005 and Rossi once again lapped the circuit in under a minute. Considering he had never driven a racing car – let alone one which used downforce for its extreme capabilities – Rossi’s performance was mind-blowing.
Today’s Valencia test carried far more significance. Ferrari were looking to entice Rossi to race in Formula One as a team-mate to Michael Schumacher in 2007.
Rossi drove a Ferrari 2004M throughout the test which differed from the official drivers as they were using the 2006 Ferrari 248 with the new V8 unlimited engine whereas he had the 3.0-litre V10 but with its power limited to V8 levels.
Although his time was just over a second slower than Schumacher – the team took into account the differences between the cars in concluding that Valentino was approximately 0.4 behind Schumacher’s time. The test in Valencia would also herald a new villain of the peace…
The crowds that came into the circuit for this an early winter test numbered in the region of 20,000, an unheard of number for a Spanish winter test. The press had also turned out in force for this Italian showman and Alonso was not in the slightest impressed.
Alonso condescendingly remarked that he too could get within a second of the leading pace in MotoGP and Rossi admitted he hoped one day the Spaniard would indulge him the contest.
“Yes it’s true,” remarked the 7 times champion. “I wanted to make a bet with Alonso and have a heat with MotoGP, F1 and a rally car – but he said he didn’t have time! Maybe in the future it will be possible…”
Rossi would test for Ferrari on a number of occasions over the next two years, before a break until January 2010 at the Barcelona track. Not having sat in an F1 car for nearly two years he recorded a time just a quarter of a second slower than Raikkonen’s lap record..
Great article Carlo.
Very fond of Rossi, both as a person and as a racer. Amazingly talented, and huge charisma.
Completely agree, I fear for MotoGP when he retires.
Marc Marquez looks like he’s on the right path, but true, there’s only one Valentino Rossi.
Can anyone tell me the last italian driver who drove for Ferrari, its gotta be some time ago. Can you imagine, an Italian winning in a Ferrari at Monza, holly shit, there would be a full scale riot by the Tifosi, no amount of security would be able to suppress them I would guess.
Oh for what could have been……
Fisi. And it was the biggest mistake of his career!
Hi Colin. Respectfully I have to disagree, but in the specific sense that, while the decision took him out of the quick Force India and plopped him down in a car w/ which he was unfamiliar, in which he ultimately drove very unspectacularly, just to compete in F1 for Ferrari was fulfillment of a lifetime ambition that Fisi may not have been able to realize otherwise, if not at that point.
Fisi was not an emotionless pilot who lacked a sense of history…rather, he was the opposite: an Italian!!
I thought his decision to run with the Prancing Horse was epic, and very much worthy of respect and admiration, for Fisi was painting a tapestry of his life that few dare even to conceptualize, let alone realize.
Colin got there first. Fisichella in 2009 after Massa’s accident. They had recruited Badoer for two races but his results were terrible.
Since the Alboreto tenure between 1984-1988, there has been Morbidelli, Capelli, Larini, Badoer and Fischella, not exactly a roll call of honour!
Agree, Ferrari got caught off guard more than once when it comes to back up drivers.
Biggest mistake? Hmm..I agree the Force India was fairly competitive, but come on, what Italian driver would resist a call from Maranello.
Look where Fisico is now, still part of the famiglia Ferrari, won Le Mans with AF Corse, I mean his drean came true, that can never be a mistake.
I met Giancarlo a few times, one of the most charismatic, sympathetic guys you’ll ever meet.
Fisichella’s peak seemed to be around 97 and 98, so perhaps it was too late for him to adapt in 2009. Early in his career he was very fast for sure.
Morbidelli only got one chance in the Ferrari – wet Adelaide, which was abandoned and the result Brazil 2002’d.. so how he would have done with another chance is also an interesting conundrum.
The reason I think it was his biggest mistake was as follows:
– the car was poor by Ferrari standards
– he had no time to adjust to a different machine
– his team mate was excellent
– the force India that year was a good car capable of good results
– Fisi had his legacy damaged by such a poor showing
I agree with you about his personality, he is a lovely man with class, dignity and humility.
He was also a far better driver than he gets credit for. He did amazingly well in some machinery that wasn’t great and also compared very well with some pretty special drivers.
I also agree, he had to take the risk when offered the Ferrari seat, but it did make him look bad when he was so far behind his team mate and so far down the grid.
Unfortunately, its what most of his critics use to disprove his excellence.
Colin, just following on from what I said above…(and I appreciate your civility in this discussion, btw!):
I feel so strongly about this (appreciating Fisi’s decision to drop everything for Ferrari w/o hesitation or regret, b/c it was a DREAM almost impossible to pervert and transform into a nightmare) that I pulled some quotes and/or reports to confirm the rightness of the decision for Giancarlo on a personal and sporting level:
1) Giancarlo Fisichella: Man Among Machines –
“For Fisichella, this is the culmination of a lifetime’s work, the fulfilling of a dream far stronger than the ones most of us had in childhood.
Sure, most Grand Prix drivers would love to race for Ferrari, donning the red overalls and becoming engulfed in a legacy that spans many decades. None, however, share the same passion for the Italian stable that Giancarlo has displayed. Fisichella has openly admitted he would have LEFT ANY OF THE TEAMS [emphasis mine] he raced for (including more-than-capable squads like Renault) if Ferrari were to call…”
2) Giancarlo Fisichella savours Ferrari call-up in place of Felipe Massa
• Fisichella picked by Ferrari for last five races of season
• ‘I still can’t believe it – that the dream of my life comes true’
“I’m in seventh heaven,” said Fisichella. “I still can’t believe it – that the dream of my life comes true. Over the last week some really incredible things happened to me: the pole position and then second place at Spa and now I’m called by Ferrari to race the last five races of the season for them. I’ll give my best to recompense the Scuderia for this great opportunity they gave me: I know that it won’t be easy, but I’ll give it everything to gain the best possible results.”
3) Fisichella: I don’t regret switching to Ferrari –
“I think for me, the opportunity to race for Ferrari was a DREAM I’D HAD SINCE I WAS A CHILD,” [emphasis mine] he said. “In the end it came true, when I had given up hope that it would ever happen. So you should never say never! I am very happy with what I have done and I would NOT TURN BACK the clock, even if I have struggled in these last few races with Ferrari.” [emphasis mine]
4) And from the same Guardian article above, a quote from Mallya, which was borne out as Fisi was able to continue w/ Ferrari, although I acknowledge that Fisi would’ve preferred to keep racing in F1 even for a different team like Sauber, rather than warming the F1 bench, riding the pine, for Ferrari, before then having to driver Ferrari sportscars.
“Dr Vijay Mallya, the Force India chairman, stressed that there had been no financial settlement with Ferrari despite allowing Fisichella to break the final year of his contract. ‘For any Italian driver, a Ferrari race seat is a long-held dream and for Giancarlo it was no exception,’ said Mallya. ‘No one should stand in the way of this. Furthermore the agreement will secure Giancarlo’s long-term future with Ferrari and it would be incorrect to jeopardise this, particularly when Giancarlo has made such a vital contribution to Force India.’ ”
But the reason Fisi can’t regret his 2009 decision is b/c he may very well have NEVER been able to drive for Ferrari in F1 otherwise! I watched interviews w/ him from those weekends and he spoke of the pure joy he experienced walking into MONZA of all places in Ferrari racing suit, for his debut GP w/ the team…
Cheers mate! And thanks to Enzo for his perspective, too.
Have a good week, guys!
On the first 4 points,I agree.
But I don’t think Fisico had his legacy damaged, just as (Ferrari fans at least) don’t consider Luca Badoer’s legacy damaged, they remember him for all the thousands of km’s of testing he did in the Schumacher era, making him a vital part of the team, and not for the (very) poor results in 2009.
I’m not sure if Fisico made an emotional decision or that Ferrari simply claimed the Roman driver from Force India, because of outstanding debts, left over from it’s customer engine supply deal the year before, but Mallya never put up much of a fight, if I remember correctly.
For any Italian driver a Ferrari race seat is a long held dream, and Fisico was no exception, he may have done not so good in the reminder of the season, but he’s doing brilliant in Ferrari’s AF Corse team, and secured himself a long term future with Ferrari.
Fisico is living his dream, so I say:” bravo Giancarlo!”
Maybe Mallya thought he could get the same results by hiring another Italian driver, Vitantonio Liuzzi, but that’s a whole other story;)
Nice debate guys – enjoyed it!!
Can we include Massa by proxy? I take it that his family roots are in Italy, but obviously moved to Brazil before he was born. I always wondered if this is why they picked him up and trained him in 2003, and thus he was their driver (for the next decade) from then on.
The rumour I read was that Schumi and Rossi lost out to Raikkonen and Massa for 2007, with Kimi being signed by LDM against Todt’s lineup wishes. Thus, Schumi was faced with Kimi or retire, so his retirement was prematurely announced by the team at Monza 2006. Always wondered if this was true..
But the part about Rossi’s skills are no doubt true. A karting champion at a young age, he turned to MotoGP to be able to continue racing and become a professional. If only he could have been driving single seaters.. but then we wouldn’t have his MotoGP exploits, for which he is famous.
I had read that some of Massa’s family have Italian heritage, as does Ayrton Senna on his mothers side.. Alonso too, but I don’t believe this has anything to do with his recruitment.
Sadly, Massa was/is managed by a certain Nicholas Todt, and his father ran Ferrari at the time. Nepotism at it’s saddest!
Thanks for this article Carlo, what’s not to love about Valentino?
Gilles and Valentino on 1 day, what more could a Ferrari fan wish for, well, Gilles in BJ’s top 3 maybe, but I’m working on that 😉
Stay tuned enzo, I am all for promoting Ferrari and the legends – lets make everyone a Ferrari fan 😉
One hell of a challenge, but let’s go for it !
An Italian winning at Monza, we’ll probably have to wait for Raffaele Marciello or Antonio Fuoco for that, two brilliant youngsters from the FDA.
Actually there was more to the secrecy around the 2004 test than just the sponsorship clash.
Rossi had left HRC ( Honda ) at the end of 2003 under a cloud. He was really pissed off with them and to an extent motorcycling in general.
Rossi’s move to Yamaha, therefore, was a gamble on a manufacturer that hadn’t won a world champion in 10 years.
There was a genuine belief that had the move to Yamaha not paid off – he would move to F1. And it wasn’t just Ferrari that were interested. Other teams were too.
As it happened – he achieved what no rider since Eddie Lawson had done in the history of the premier-class – he won back-to-back championships on different marques, Honda in 2003 and Yamaha in 2004. He also won a further 3 championships with Yamaha up to 2010.
And on the rallying side of things – he tested for SEAT – and was offered a WRC drive.
” I wanted to make a bet with Alonso and have a heat with MotoGP, F1 and a rally car – but he said he didn’t have time ….. ”
More likely – Alonso didn’t have the talent …….
Some great additions, didn’t know about the Seat offer.
As to the ‘talented’ Alonso, I hope it came across in my writing that I agree with your views too.
Yep, fully agreee. You’ve slammed the nail on the head completely
You’re soo right. I hear about this constantly. Incredible article.