The Belgian GP, considered to be the most exciting race of the calendar, has its share of legends. In terms of winning record, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Kimi Raikkonen are the top three drivers with six, five and four wins respectively.
This Sunday, Kimi and Michael would therefore be looking forward to race on the Spa Francorchamps circuit they have mastered so many times. However, this track too holds a special place for Giancarlo Fisichella. In 2009, the Italian driver, performed brilliantly to finish in second place, thus giving Force India not only its first championship points but also its best result so far.
The 2009 Belgian GP was a landmark race for the Silverstone based squad. Just a year earlier, it had started racing under the Force India name following Vijay Mallya’s takeover of Spyker F1. Expectedly, in its first year, the cars were languishing at the bottom. At the end of 2008, the team underwent a major restructuring, including the change of engine supplier. The team started showing promise from the middle of the season, with the other driver Adrian Sutil missing out on an impressive sixth placed finish at the Chinese Grand Prix due to an accident. ‘
However, by the time of Belgium GP, there was not much to show in terms of result. The best result till then were two ninth placed finishes. It was therefore a shock when Fisichella put his Force India car on pole for the Belgian GP. It was the team’s first pole position. The following day, Fisichella carried his brilliant form and maintained remarkable race pace. He was actually quicker than the winner Kimi Raikkonen, who won by a margin of less than a second.
The team continued its impressive showing in the next race in Italy where Sutil finished fourth and recorded the race’s fastest lap, a first for the team.
These two races showed that the team had the potential to fight regularly for podium finishes. Though 2010 and 2011 were better in terms of points haul (there has been a change in points scoring system from 2010, the year from which points were awarded to top 10 finishers instead of the top 8), the team never managed to break into the top tier, something teams like Lotus F1 and Sauber have managed to do this season.
Though it is unlikely to happen, the team would nevertheless dearly love to emulate its stunning 2009 performance this Sunday.