23-year-old Italian racing driver Antonio Giovinazzi has been told by his Ferrari bosses that he remains firmly in the frame to get a full-time seat in Formula One, despite the fact that he missed out on a chance with Sauber for next season. The 2015 FIA Formula 3 European Championship runner-up had been a contender for a drive at the rebranded Alfa Romeo Sauber outfit, but in the end lost out when team bosses elected to retain Marcus Ericsson instead.
But despite the disappointment of another year of only getting a few Friday practice outings, Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has made it clear that he still believes Giovinazzi will get a race opportunity in the future: “Giovinazzi is a good guy, and it’s just a question time. He should get his chance. He will be Ferrari’s third driver and he has a programme of testing with Sauber. We understand his desire to race, but at the moment there are no vacancies. The agreement with Sauber is a way to find an outlet for the youngsters in our Driver Academy, and it will take take time to streamline this system.”
One route that could open up a race seat for Antonio Giovinazzi is if Charles Leclerc steps up to Scuderia Ferrari in 2019, should he impress enough in his rookie season. Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen only agreed a one-year extension to his contract for 2018 and, on the back of some difficult times this year, he will need to deliver more next year if he is to justify another deal.
When asked if Charles Leclerc could be a possible replacement for Kimi Raikkonen in 2019, Marchionne said: “Leclerc has been asked to give his best to the Alfa Romeo Sauber project in 2018. Then we will see.” Sergio Marchionne said he was not raising expectations too high for 2018, despite the benefits of an increased budget that Sauber will get: “The power unit will be 2018 and there will be two talented young drivers. The first year of collaboration can not have very high expectations, but we want to grow and improve.”
The Italian-Canadian executive also confirmed at the launch that Alfa Romeo was making a financial contribution to the team, but denied suggestions that the move was a first step to a takeover of Sauber: “We have not discussed this possibility.” – Sergio Marchionne concluded.