There are two approaches to hiring a Formula One driver. The first is to go with a seasoned veteran, a driver who's already seen just about anything that is likely to come up on the track or off, and knows how to deal with it. The second is to grab an aspiring rookie who's eager to show his mettle, bereft of the caution that years of experience can impart. The same goes for test drivers, but once in a while a team finds itself having to promote a tester into the race seat.
When Felipe Massa was taken out of commission at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month, the questions on everyone's mind was who would replace him and when he'd be back. With regards to the former, Ferrari is one of the few teams on the grid that doesn't have a junior driver development program in place. The team doesn't usually have a problem getting the best drivers, but when disaster (literally) struck, the Scuderia was left without options.
Ferrari has had plenty of time to get its hands on Giancarlo Fisichella. The Italian driver has been on the grid since 1995 when he started as a test driver for Minardi, and later driving for Jordan, Benetton, Sauber, Renault and now Force India. But the Scuderia wasn't interested. Not until its fortunes were down, and Fisico's were up.
With Michael Schumacher now confirmed to have canceled his comeback due to a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle accident, Ferrari has been left with no choice but to put one of its veteran test drivers into Felipe Massa's seat until the injured Brazilian is ready to return to active duty. The trouble is that while other teams use the test driver position to groom up-and-coming drivers for the race seat, Ferrari's approach has been to use older, more experienced drivers past their prime.