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Force India to test Schumacher, Fisichella

Seven drivers including the likes of Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella are all set to test for Vijay Mallya's Force India in Spain next week.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2007 15:38 IST
Alan Baldwin
Alan Baldwin

Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella, former winners in search of a Formula One lifeline, will be among seven drivers testing for Force India in Spain next week.

The renamed team, formerly Spyker, said on Wednesday that the two would each have a full day of testing in Jerez from Dec. 4-7, joining fellow-hopefuls Christian Klien of Austria, Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi and France's Franck Montagny.

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde and Spaniard Roldan Rodriguez, neither of whom have any Formula One race experience, complete the testing line-up.

A team spokeswoman said Adrian Sutil, the German rookie who competed for Spyker this year, was confirmed for next season and had no need to take part in the test.

Compatriot Schumacher, younger brother of retired seven times world champion Michael who will be testing for Ferrari in Jerez the same week, left Toyota in October after three generally lacklustre years.

The 32-year-old, winner of six grands prix for Williams in a 179-race career, has sounded confident about continuing in Formula One but has attracted little interest in his services.

Testing for Ferrari-powered Force India takes the German, who started his career at Jordan in 1997, full circle with that team being renamed Midland and then Spyker before being bought by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya and Dutch entrepreneur Michiel Mol.

Mallya was a sponsor of Toyota this season through his Kingfisher Airlines while technical head Mike Gascoyne has worked with Schumacher at Jordan and Toyota.

High Ambitions

"I have known Vijay for many years over my time with Toyota. I fully understand his passion for the sport and know that he will put this drive into Force India to make it a success," said Schumacher in a team statement.

"Driving for a young dynamic team with high ambitions is a good opportunity, but at the moment it is just one test to see how we get on working together, and whether this is possible.

"I think I can help the team with its development programme but we will see."

Fisichella's inclusion is a clear sign that he will not figure in Renault's plans.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso is widely expected to return to his former team, with Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior poised to graduate from the reserve role. Renault also have Finland's Heikki Kovalainen as another option.

"Whilst no drivers have been officially confirmed by Renault, the team has given me permission to explore other options," said Fisichella, who also raced for Jordan early in his career.

"I was invited to test with Force India F1 Team at Jerez and I was very happy to accept it."

Montagny was a Toyota test driver this season and started seven races for Honda-backed Super Aguri in 2006 after three years as a Renault reserve. The Frenchman, who turns 30 in January, tests with Fisichella on Tuesday.

While Schumacher and Fisichella will be in the limelight, Klien and Liuzzi remain more likely contenders for the race drive with both recalled for a second test after impressing in Barcelona this month.

Klien will test on Wednesday, with the team able to compare him alongside Fisichella, while Schumacher is paired with Liuzzi on the Thursday.

First Published: Nov 28, 2007 15:34 IST