Wednesday August 22nd, 2001
Benetton's Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella will trade places with compatriot Jarno Trulli and join the Jordan Formula One team in 2002 on a three-year contract.
A Jordan statement said 28-year-old Fisichella, who drove for the team in 1997 and took two podium finishes, was returning after agreeing a three-year deal.
A team spokeswoman said that Renault-owned Benetton had exercised an option on Trulli, who has been at Jordan since the start of last season after previously driving for Prost and Minardi. Benetton's other current driver is young Briton Jenson Button, who is on loan from Williams until 2003.
"Planning for the long-term future is vital and stability and continuity are key to success," said team boss Eddie Jordan in the statement. "I am overjoyed that Giancarlo has signed a three-year contract with us, as this gives Jordan and Honda a strong platform to build on."
Fisichella, who has yet to win a race in 87 starts, had been at Benetton for the past four seasons but Benetton let their option on keeping him for a fifth year lapse shortly before last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix. Fisichella has had a nightmare season at Benetton, struggling with an uncompetitive car and scoring just four points form 13 races so far.
The Italian had said he wanted to stay at Benetton, whose form is expected to improve next season when they are renamed as Renault, but they had offered only a one-year deal and wanted to renegotiate his wages.
His return to Jordan, who use Honda engines, has an ironic twist to it since Benetton and Jordan were locked in a bitter legal tussle for his services at the end of 1997. A high court decision ruled in favour of Benetton.
Jordan have yet to make a decision on their second driver, having fired German Heinz-Harald Frentzen before his home Grand Prix at Hockenheim last month. French veteran Jean Alesi left Prost after Hockenheim and moved to Jordan for the remaining five races of a season already sealed by Ferrari and Michael Schumacher.
Alesi has said he hoped to remain next season. Jordan had also offered Trulli a contract for next season but had been forced to wait on Benetton.
His manager Lucio Cavuto said this month that Trulli, whose contract is held by Benetton boss Flavio Briatore, had reached an agreement to stay at Jordan but it was up to Renault to decide on his future.
Published at 16:41:06 GMT