Antonio Giovinazzi can 'trouble' Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo - Giancarlo Minardi

Giancarlo Minardi believes compatriot Antonio Giovinazzi can “trouble” Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo Racing this season, and has welcomed his arrival on the grid.

Giovinazzi, following a two-event stint as a substitute at Sauber in early 2017, will step up full-time this season, becoming Italy’s first representative on the grid since 2011.

Minardi founded his eponymous team that competed in Formula 1 for two decades and which was ultimately acquired by Red Bull, with the squad transitioning into Toro Rosso for the 2006 season.

Minardi handed Grand Prix debuts to several of Giovinazzi’s Italian predecessors, including eventual race-winners Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli, and reckons the 25-year-old can make an impact.

“The arrival of Antonio in Formula 1 is a very important signal for the whole of Italian motorsport, for the young drivers and also for the future of the Italian Grand Prix, as well as for the Federation", commented Minardi on his official website.

"I have always argued that in Italy it is not the drivers who are missing, but the resources, and I am pleased that Antonio has managed to break down this barrier only with the help of his qualities [as a driver].

“I hope this return is a good omen also to bring the interest of the [Italian] companies towards our motorsport [industry] again.

“[Raikkonen] will have to watch his shoulders very well from Giovinazzi, because I am sure he will be able to put him in trouble.”

It was confirmed on Friday that Sauber will compete in Formula 1 under the Alfa Romeo Racing banner, developing a partnership that began with title sponsorship last year.