F ure it was a good season for Sauber . Out of nowhere in 8th place. The next step is to take the Swiss racing team even further forward. Sauber wants to get involved at the top of the midfield. Two new drivers will then be seated in the cockpits. Kimi Raikkonen replaces Marcus Ericsson, Antonio Giovinazzi succeeds Charles Leclerc. The qualities of Raikkonen are well known. The 39-year-old Finn has just had his best Ferrari season since 2008. He brings experience and stability. And the third place in the World Championship this season will take on Leclerc's role as a reliable point supplier.
A Ferrari junior was again nominated for the second car. Antonio Giovinazzi's promotion from Ferrari simulator driver to regular driver at Sauber was also due to the main sponsor Alfa Romeo. Sauber knows the 24-year-old Italian. The second in the GP2 series in 2016 drove two races in 2017 as a replacement for Pascal Wehrlein. On her debut in Australia, Giovinazzi took a respectable 12th place. His second outing in China ended with two accidents in exactly the same place.
A debut after two years without a race
Sauber's newcomer has not raced since the 2017 Chinese GP. Giovinazzi sharpened his reflexes and his driving feeling with assignments in test drives and in Friday training for HaasF1 as well as Sauber and with simulator driving for Ferrari. 'In the last two years I have unwound around 75,000 kilometers in the simulator,' says Giovinazzi. There were also 1,110 test kilometers for Ferrari and 1,865 for Sauber.
More than once, he became a silent hero for Ferrari. When Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen's cars were off the track in Friday practice, the man had to run in the simulator and try out alternative settings. The work on Friday evening was almost always worthwhile. 'If Seb or Kimi were satisfied with my work, it felt like a small victory for me.'
When Giovinazzi got out of his Sauber in the first Friday practice after 24 laps in Abu Dhabi, he breathed a sigh of relief: “That was the last time that I did my work for others. From next year I will also benefit from it. I can't wait to be in the car from February. The three months in winter will be very long for me. ”
The long-haired Italian lives like so many of his guild in Monte Carlo. Which doesn't stop him from showing up at the factory in Hinwil on a regular basis. “There is a good flight connection between Nice and Zurich. If I take the first plane in the morning, I'll be at the factory in the morning. ”After two years without a race, Giovinazzi's first task will be to get used to the rhythm of a racing weekend again. “I have to learn a lot at the first Grand Prix. Fortunately, with Kimi, I have someone by my side who has endless experience. That will help me. ”
The impossible comparison with Leclerc
Giovinazzi will not be able to avoid the comparison with Charles Leclerc. Both come from the Ferrari Academy. Both have passed their final exams in Formula 2 or their predecessor series. Leclerc with the title, Giovinazzi with 2nd place. In a direct comparison, Leclerc delivered the more constant performances. Giovinazzi was more volatile. He won races from the last row of the grid, but then bobbed around again in midfield without attracting attention.
Giovinazzi does not want to make a comparison with his predecessor. “I'll focus on myself and think from race to race. I don't want to take stock until the end of the year. ”After all, the five-time GP2 winner is convinced that with Sauber he has found an ideal platform for a Formula 1 entry:“ No team has improved as well as Sauber. From the penultimate row in Melbourne to the fourth fastest car in the last few races. '
Giovinazzi did not want to rely on good advice from Leclerc:' We didn't talk to each other much. I have to rely on myself. A comparison with Charles is difficult. I will have a different teammate than him. On the other hand, I'll be in a better car at the start of the season than he did a year ago. '
Best of all, he rest has to be the goal
Giovinazzi doesn't see himself as a decal from Robert Kubica either, who became a regular driver at Williams after a test year. “I had a completely different role than Robert. My main job in 2018 was simulator work for Ferrari. That's why I'm more in the Ferrari garage on race weekendsthan in that of Sauber. ”Working with a top team also made him a better racing driver, even though he didn't drive any races, says the new Sauber driver. “I learned a lot working with the Ferrari engineers. My feedback about the car has clearly improved. ”
In 2019, Giovinazzi will dedicate himself to Sauber with heart and soul. “Ferrari always remains a part of me. You brought me to where I am now. ”He expects a lot from his new employer. “I know it's a big goal for us. But we should be able to race for the title Best of the rest. Even if we have a factory team as competitors with Renault. ”