It’s fair to say that Italy is one of the most significant nations in the history of motor racing, yet it hasn’t had a driver with a full-time presence on the F1 grid since 2011. One man will change that next year: Antonio Giovinazzi, driving an Alfa Romeo-liveried, Ferrari-powered Sauber, equipped with Pirelli tyres of course.
Giovinazzi made his name while competing in Formula 2 in 2016 (or GP2 as it as still known then). As a rookie, he pushed Prema Racing team-mate Pierre Gasly all the way in the championship. Giovinazzi ultimately lost out in the final round in Abu Dhabi, but he was the unanimous winner of the year’s Rookie of the Year award: presented by Pirelli to the newcomer who impressed most throughout the season, particularly with their tyre use.
Without the benefit of big financial backing, Giovinazzi couldn’t immediately force his way into a Formula 1 seat. His performances did however attract the attention of Ferrari, which signed him to a test and development role. That has including driving in Pirelli tyre tests like the one he conducted at Ferrari’s famed Fiorano test track earlier this year.
He got an earlier-than-expected racing debut with Sauber, standing in for the first two races of 2017, and he impressed everybody with his speed first time out in Australia. China wasn’t so strong, and with limited chances to shine, he was dismissed by some observers for his mistakes. But everybody who watched Giovinazzi in GP2 has a very different picture: his dramatic double win in Baku stands out particularly, but he was a strong racer all year, helped by his quick understanding of the tyres.
He has been working with Sauber again this year, and got his latest free practice appearance in Sochi, where he lapped faster than team-mate Charles Leclerc, the 2017 F2 champion who went on to have a stunning race in Russia. Both are proof of F2’s role as a perfect proving ground for future F1 talent.
Italian representation has always been high in the feeder series. Luca Ghiotto and Antonio Fuoco have recently been joined on the current F2 grid by Alessio Lorandi, who stepped up from GP3 mid-season and has adapted quickly, scoring his first points in the Sochi feature race.
All three will no doubt be inspired by Giovinazzi bringing their nation back to the F1 grid.