“A Brief Story About Antonio Giovinazzi”

© Sauber F1 Team

Antonio Giovinazzi’s late call-up for Sauber for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix was certainly a surprise, particularly given the reasons for which Pascal Wehrlein was withdrawn.

But had one told the Italian about his Formula One less than two years ago, it is doubtful whether he would have believed it.

During the early stages of the 2015 FIA European F3 Championship, I sat down with Giovinazzi and spoke to him about the future beyond F3. Knowing that season – his third in the category – was likely to be his final season before moving on, Giovinazzi was in several minds as to what to do next.

Recognising the paths taken by F3 and other single-seater drivers in previous years, Giovinazzi desires seemed more realistic than unnecessarily hopeful. “I would think, I like, maybe DTM. Testing first for a year and maybe trying for a race seat,” he said, continuing, “I would also like to try IndyCar. That looks like it could be fun.”

At this stage in their careers, most young drivers will tell you of their ambition to take over the world and that they will eventually be a multiple world champion, but occasionally there are those with enough sensibility to understand the situation facing them when faced with the brutal finances of motor sport.
When I asked him if there were any ambitions for Formula One, the then 21-year-old was frank in his assessment of the possibilities. “We have not enough money. It’s crazy. I would like to, but we do not have the sponsorship [for F1] and I am not with a big team. Formula One is not in my future.”

Of course, at this time, Giovinazzi was not part of any team programme in Formula One and his backing from Jagonya Ayam {note 1} was unlikely to carry him to F1, especially considering the funds required and the potential lack of brand carry-over outside of South East Asia.
That year Giovinazzi finished runner-up in the European Championship to Felix Rosenqvist and the relationship With Jagonya Ayam carried through that winter and into 2016, where the Italian competed in two Asian Le Mans Series races in the LMP2 class with Sean Gelael, taking victories in both with his Indonesian friend. A move to the GP2 Series with Prema Powerteam followed, with Giovinazzi pushing series favourite Pierre Gasly to the flag, eventually finishing runner-up there and getting drafted to the Ferrari Driver Academy.

There is little doubt that the link to Ferrari may have helped Giovinazzi make the jump – even if it is just for one race, but the growth shown in Formula 3 and GP2 and his performance in Melbourne should go some way to opening doors for the 23-year-old.
One can only hope teams were paying attention.

{note 1}
Jagonya Ayam is the KFC franchise for Indonesia and its President Director is a chap called Ricardo Gelael, Sean Gelael’s father. Ricardo has occasionally rallied as a hobby, particularly in the 90s, but looks to have stopped about a decade ago; however Sean has been committed to racing since his early teens.
When both were competing in the MRF challenge a few years ago, Giovinazzi stayed with the Gelael family and have been friends since. Giovinazzi returned the favour for Gelael when they were teammates at Double R Racing for the 2013 European Championship.

© Sauber F1 Team

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