Antonio Giovinazzi will step up to a full-time Formula 1 race seat with Sauber in 2019, as team-mate to current Ferrari man Kimi Raikkonen. Motorsport Week takes a look at Giovinazzi’s route onto the grid.
Giovinazzi negotiated the usual route in karting before stepping up to cars in Formula Pilota China, a title he took with relative ease. During that season a friendship with Sean Gelael developed, and the Indonesian’s father’s Jagonya Ayam company would prove influential in the progress of Giovinazzi’s career. Giovinazzi stepped up to European Formula 3 with Double R in 2013 and endured a so-so rookie campaign before a switch to Carlin the following season yielded a step forward, with podiums and wins en route to sixth overall.
Giovinazzi remained in Formula 3 for a third season in 2015 with Carlin for what proved to be one of the series’ most competitive years. Giovinazzi scored six wins as he thrust himself into title contention but ultimately missed out to fellow stalwart Felix Rosenqvist, who hit form during the later stages of the campaign. But Giovinazzi still finished ahead of several other luminaries, including Charles Leclerc, Lance Stroll and George Russell.
GP2 title fight
Giovinazzi moved into GP2 with series newcomer Prema and as team-mate to Pierre Gasly. Having failed to score early on he stunned with a clean sweep in Baku, charging from poor positions on both occasions. It catapulted him to the attention of the Formula 1 paddock and he won three more times as he fought tooth-and-nail with Gasly for the crown, which was ultimately settled in the Frenchman’s favour in Abu Dhabi. Giovinazzi, though, was hot property, and while Mercedes’ interest cooled, he was picked up as Ferrari’s reserve.
Pascal Wehrlein’s Race of Champions injury was more serious than initially thought and Giovinazzi was called up by Sauber to participate in pre-season testing. Wehrlein was deemed fine to return but the severity of his injury had impacted his fitness – and post-practice in Australia realised he was not ready. Giovinazzi filled the breach from FP3 onwards and impressed, going on to claim 12th in the race. He remained in the C36 for China but crashed heavily in qualifying and lost control in damp conditions early in the race that triggered a similarly large shunt.
Giovinazzi emerged in contention at Haas, where he joined as its test/reserve driver, and was handed several FP1 outings for Formula 1’s newest team. A crash in Hungary did not aid his prospects but Haas was always edging towards retaining its pairing, rather than taking a punt on a newcomer. The door at Haas closed but it remained open at Sauber. However, the rapid rise of Charles Leclerc meant he jumped ahead in the Ferrari hierarchy and was a given for a Sauber seat, while the team opted to retain incumbent Marcus Ericsson over Giovinazzi.
Keeping active in sportscars
Giovinazzi has not raced full-time since 2016 but he made his debut at Le Mans earlier this year, driving a Ferrari 488 in the GTE Pro category. It wasn’t Giovinazzi’s first foray into the WEC scene, having partnered with Gelael for a handful of LMP2 races across 2015/16 in Asian Le Mans, European Le Mans and the WEC itself. Giovinazzi partnered Toni Vilander and Pipo Derani to finish fifth in class and next month will step back into LMP2 machinery with Extreme Speed Motorsports at Petit Le Mans.
Patience is a virtue
Giovinazzi retained his Ferrari reserve role – having received praise from Sebastian Vettel and Maurizio Arrivabene for his simulator skills – and also kept his eye in at Sauber, courtesy of a reserve role that included test outings and six FP1s. Giovinazzi hid any lingering frustration and methodically undertook his respective roles, emphasising that his future was in the hands of Ferrari and his management. On Tuesday he was finally confirmed in a full-time Formula 1 seat, ending Italy’s eight-year wait for a representative on the grid.