For the next few weeks, as we await the return of racing, Motorsport Week will delve into the archives to search out the first time that our grid of 2020 F1 racers stepped into top-level machinery in a public forum.
An unexpected GP2 opportunity with Prema in 2016 raised Antonio Giovinazzi’s profile as he battled tooth-and-nail with team-mate and Red Bull protégé Pierre Gasly for the crown.
Giovinazzi ultimately missed out in the Abu Dhabi finale but by then Mercedes and Ferrari had already been in touch over his services for the following campaign.
Then Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne lobbied hard to secure Giovinazzi’s services and an agreement was reached, with the youngster becoming Ferrari’s reserve driver.
It left Giovinazzi facing a year as Ferrari back-up with the prospect of some test days and a few Haas FP1 runs – not bad for a driver who had struggled to put together a GP2 budget.
But Giovinazzi was called into action during pre-season testing in Barcelona when regular Sauber racer Pascal Wehrlein was unable to regain full fitness in the wake of a back injury sustained in a freak Race of Champions accident.
Giovinazzi sampled the team’s Ferrari-powered C36, marking his first outing in modern-spec machinery, and acquitted himself well.
Wehrlein returned for the second test but there remained doubts over the state of his back, meaning Giovinazzi was placed on standby.
Wehrlein participated in Friday practice in Australia but did not feel sufficiently fit and withdrew, prompting Giovinazzi to jump into action for the remainder of the weekend.
Giovinazzi raced again in China, albeit briefly after crashing out, and almost two years later joined the grid full-time with the same team under its revised Alfa Romeo guise.