Car No.: 36
Best Finish: P12 (Australia)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 22nd
Antonio Giovinazzi made his mark through 2016 by finishing as runner-up in the GP2 Series, leading to a reserve role with Ferrari and a place on its junior programme – but his Formula 1 debut still came about as a surprise. After deputizing for the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber in the opening pre-season test, Giovinazzi was benched again upon the German’s return for the second week of running in Barcelona, and only traveled to Australia to be on-hand as a precaution.
But when Wehrlein felt discomfort upon pushing the car at high speed in practice, Giovinazzi was drafted in for a shock F1 debut, entering qualifying with only an hour’s worth of practice running under his belt in the Sauber C36 car.
The young Italian driver put in a stellar display, though, nearly reaching Q2 – he would have had it not been for a mistake at the final corner – and enjoyed a solid race to finish an excellent 12th.
Giovinazzi was once again in action for the Chinese Grand Prix, but had a tougher weekend. A crash in qualifying was followed by a similar shunt in the race as he misjudged the damp conditions on the main straight, slamming his car into the wall. It was a come-down for the Italian after such a strong debut, and proved to be his final start of the season as Wehrlein returned for Bahrain.
Despite Ferrari pushing for him to get a seat with Sauber for 2018, the team opted to keep Marcus Ericsson, leaving Giovinazzi to settle for a third driver role.
He may be waiting in the wings, but time is ticking for a chance to come along that would allow Giovinazzi to prove his quality.