Another piece of the 2019 F1 driver jigsaw has fallen in to place with the news that Sauber have elected to recruit Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovinazzi to race alongside the recently-signed Kimi Raikkonen in an all-new line-up…
Sauber said the Italian, who has raced twice and carried out driving duties in several tests and FP1 sessions for the Swiss team, will take Charles Leclerc’s seat at the team, confirming rumours that Raikkonen - who signed earlier this month - had in fact taken Marcus Ericsson's place.
Ericsson, who has driven for Sauber since 2015, will stay on with the Hinwil-based squad as third driver and brand ambassador.
This is a dream come true. As an Italian, it is a huge honour for me to represent a brand as iconic and successful as Alfa Romeo
Giovinazzi made his F1 debut with Sauber at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, finishing 12th as a substitute for the injured Pascal Wehrlein, and subsequently raced for the team at the following round in China.
He will be F1’s first full-time Italian driver since Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi departed F1 at the end of 2011.
“The decision to elect Antonio Giovinazzi is particularly significant in the scope of the project that this season saw the return of Alfa Romeo to the pinnacle of motorsports after a hiatus of more than 30 years,” said Sauber, who teamed up with the iconic Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo at the start of the year.
“The coming together of Alfa Romeo and the Italian driver was natural, also considering the strong bond that has tied Giovinazzi to the brand from an early age, and is a source of national pride considering that several years have passed since an Italian driver has competed in Formula 1.”
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Team Principal Frederic Vasseur said Giovinazzi had “proven to have great potential” when carrying out driving duties for the team over the course of the last two years.
Giovinazzi added: “This is a dream come true, and it is a great pleasure to have the chance to race for this team. As an Italian, it is a huge honour for me to represent a brand as iconic and successful as Alfa Romeo in our sport.
“I would like to thank the Scuderia Ferrari and the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for giving me this great opportunity. I am very motivated and cannot wait to start working towards achieving great results together.”
Giovinazzi has taken part in two FP1 sessions for Sauber this season - in Germany and Hungary - and is set to take part in a third at this weekend's Russian Grand Prix.
The 2019 F1 grid as it stands
- Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas
- Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc
- Red Bull – Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly
- Renault – Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg
- Haas – TBC
- McLaren – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris
- Force India – TBC
- Toro Rosso – TBC
- Sauber – Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi
- Williams – TBC