Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Singapore, 2019

2019 F1 driver rankings #17: Antonio Giovinazzi

2019 F1 season review

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Antonio Giovinazzi’s rate of improvement during his first full season in Formula 1 should make more teams question the wisdom of leaving talented drivers stuck in simulator programmes for consecutive seasons, locked away from real-world racing.

The Ferrari junior driver had demonstrated his ability previously and deserved his shot at F1. But the Australian Grand Prix was his first race in a single-seater for almost two years and during 2019 he admitted, and it was evident, that a certain race-rustiness had developed.

Of course it didn’t help matters that he was up against a world champion. But Giovinazzi made obvious progress compared to Kimi Raikkonen, especially in qualifying: Having been out-qualified 4-1 over the opening races, he led the final seven 5-2. He only narrowly lost the season-long score, Raikkonen averaging a negligible 0.004 seconds faster.

But while Giovinazzi rose to his team mate’s level in qualifying over the course of the year, the same wasn’t true in the races. Giovinazzi only managed a single points score before the summer break. This was partly because the team’s double penalty in Germany cost him his best finish up to that point, though Raikkonen was affected by that as well.

As Giovinazzi continued to improve, the Alfa Romeo slipped further off the pace, and thus his performances did not always earn the results they deserved. He finished in the top 10 more often than Raikkonen after the summer break, though he squandered his first chance for points at Spa, crashing out late in the race.

He rebounded swiftly, grabbing points for ninth at Monza. In Singapore his strategy allowed him to briefly lead the race – something no other driver outside Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull managed all year – and he claimed another point.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Beat team mate in qualifying 9/19
Beat team mate in race 2/18
Races finished 20/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 305/1187
Qualifying margin +0.004s
Points 14

By this point in the season Giovinazzi was regularly getting the upper hand on Raikkonen in qualifying, though his team mate often prevailed in the races. In four of the final six races Giovinazzi finished behind his team mate after starting ahead of him. Raikkonen performed better in the midfield, beating Sergio Perez’s Racing Point eight times, something Giovinazzi only managed twice.

At times the difference between their race performances was partly because of the team’s efforts to understand why it wasn’t making the desired progress with their car, such as in Japan, where the pair ran different aerodynamic packages. In Abu Dhabi, where the C38 was mystifyingly far slower than it had been 12 months earlier, they split the strategies between their cars which included starting Giovinazzi on soft tyres – a highly optimistic plan which did not pay off.

Both drivers, however, reaped their benefits of staying out of trouble in Brazil, Giovinazzi collecting fifth place behind his team mate.

Until his 2020 drive was confirmed late in the season, speculation persisted that Giovinazzi might lose his place to Nico Hulkenberg next year, given the out-of-contract driver’s links to team principal Frederic Vasseur. He’s been given another chance for now, and his modest but discernible improvement over the course of the year justifies it.

But he’s going to have to find another level next year to justify a long-term future in F1. Especially as the Ferrari Driver Academy has the highly attractive prospect of Mick Schumacher waiting in the wings.

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Over to you

What’s your verdict on Antonio Giovinazzi’s 2019 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “2019 F1 driver rankings #17: Antonio Giovinazzi”

  1. I feel like Antoinio made some progress but 17th place seems also fair

  2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    13th December 2019, 12:31

    I think he’s around Ericsson’s level. possibly slightly worse. He only got 5 more points than Ericsson did last season. If we are saying the car this year is as good as last year and that Giovinazzi has been decent, then Kimi is on Leclerc’s level.

    What I think is more likely, is that the car has been far better than last year, Kimi has had a good first half, but then went downhill from there. I think Giovinazzi has to me been underwhelming all season and had less decent races for the ability of his car than Ericsson. I understand he has far less experience than Ericsson, but he really isn’t looking better.

    1. Never mind likely. Any proof the car is better this year? No?
      Actually they’re more strapped for cash this year, plus they lost Resta to Ferrari….

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        13th December 2019, 16:57

        So Kimi is on the same level as Leclerc last year?

        1. @thegianthogweed Why not? Leclerc was a rookie last year. IIRC it took him until the 4th race of the season to unlock the performance of the car at all. up to that point he wasn’t even beating Ericsson

      2. Islander, why would the team be more strapped for cash in 2019 when compared to 2018 (what figures are you proposing for their budget)? If anything, the suggestion in public is that Sauber’s budget was due to increase in 2019 compared to 2018, courtesy of the Alfa Romeo sponsorship deal they signed with FCA.

        Furthermore, if the budget was meant to be shrinking in 2019, why was Vasseur able to press ahead with plans for further expansion? Vasseur stated in December 2018 that he was planning on recruiting another 35 designers in 2019, which would suggest an increase in head count of another 8% in 2019 – almost as high as in 2018 (which was 11% growth).

        Vasseur has also indicated that the team was continuing to invest in new facilities and equipment for its mechanics in 2019. It may be the case that the budget might have reduced, but that expansion of the head count and the indication of continuing investment in staff and facilities sounds a bit inconsistent with a shrinking budget.

        As for Simone Resta, Ferrari had indicated that he was only ever going on a temporary loan to Sauber – he was pulled back to Ferrari sooner than planned, but that was going to happen at some point anyway.

        1. Howdy Anon, I read somewhere, possibly here, that Alfa R were pulling in their F1 sponsorship after a review and had already reduced commitments. I took it at face value.

          1. Islander, mind posting the source for those claims? There is the question of how reliable the source of those claims might be, and whether it is more of a speculative guess that’s come about because of the proposed PSA-FCA merger.

            There doesn’t seem to have been anything immediately obvious that would suggest the team was having to operate on a more constrained budget this season – as far as I can tell, they still seemed to be bringing a stream of incremental tweaks and updates for their car as late as the Brazilian GP.

            Equally, whilst Simone Resta might have gone back to Ferrari, when Monchaux was promoted from within Sauber, Sauber then replaced Monachaux with Alessandro Cinelli – another notable designer at Ferrari who has over 20 years of experience in F1 and was the head of Ferrari’s experimental aerodynamics group in recent years. That still suggests fairly close ties with Ferrari and the sharing of experienced staff between the two teams, and Cinelli looks like he is a pretty decent designer in his own right.

    2. Either Kimi and Antonio suddenly sucked in the 2nd half of the year, or the car was out developed by rivals. Brazil was their only points since Spa.

      1. Well, since 2008 Kimi has always randomly fluctuated, but I’d blame lagging car development this time around. Of course, Giovinazzi’s qualifying performance is not flattering at all to Vettel + Leclerc if an Ericsson-tier driver is almost even with Kimi these days, and Kimi was little over two tenths slower than Vettel last year.

  3. Fair, probably. Probably the most improved driver over the course of the season, but he did struggle initially and had too many crashes.

    I’m doubtful about the last sentence though. Schumacher might be highly attractive from a marketing perspective but he hasn’t shown anything yet to suggest he’s a future top-level driver. In fact, within the Ferrari ranks I’d say Schwartzman is likely to jump him. That’ll be an interesting battle at Prema next year.

    1. Yes, good call about the Prema pairing. Without wanting to be mean to Mick, Ralf has the same genes as Michael and couldn’t live up to his achievements…

  4. So far no issues with the ranking; I’d say Magnussen and Kvyat tomorrow.

    Based on the rankings by others – and the team leaders ranking – it will get interesting when we get to Albon.

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      13th December 2019, 13:25

      Interested to see where Keith places Gasly and if he will succumb to recency bias. His first half was dreadful!

      1. Gasly should get a review this Sunday together with Raikkonen.
        And then Hulkenberg and Albon (without ‘recency bias’) early next week.

  5. Actually Kimi was MORE affected by the penalty in Germany, as he was ahead as usual, and so lost more points.

    I wonder if Maldonado could be enticed back to replace GIO with any money he may have left. Just for the entertainment value if nothing else. GIO is so short on entertainment.

  6. Maybe it also proves that giving time to young drivers before increasing the pressure too much can pay. For the rest, fully agree with the article, apart maybe for the last sentence about the other “existing prospect” ;-) …

  7. Your first paragraph sums it up. Remember that this is a guy who nearly beat Gasly (a 3-4 year veteran of GP2) to the GP2 title in his first season. Rookie champs are very rare & special (George Russell being a good example). That talent just doesn’t disappear. Saying that, it did seem as though he wasn’t there for most of the season. Quite fortunate to be given a second season IMHO.

  8. Does Giovinazzi deserve a second season in F1? Maybe, on the account of being race rusty in the beginning of the season.

    However does he deserve a second season in the Ferrari-owned seat at AR Sauber? Absolutely not! This seat is meant for up and coming Ferrari young drivers with potential to drive for the mothership. And not even Ferrari are delusional enough to believe that about Gio after this season. So just a waste of a seat really

    1. Well, it is not that they have another talent in their program, is it?

    2. @montreal95 @mosquito I couldn’t tell about any valuable Ferrari academy driver bar Schwartzman who is better than Giovinazzi right now. But its a bit soon, better make Schwartzman enter F2, learn degrading tyres and then take the seat in 2021 if he’s done a good F2 season and Gio hasn’t improved.

      I personally would like to see Giovinazzi drive like in 2015 and 2016 and remain in F1 but reckon he is currently sub-par and should beat Raikkonen or be demoted.

      1. Let’s just not talk about Mick Schumacher just yet, will we?

  9. Here are my rankings:
    20 Robert Kubica
    19 Antonio Giovinazzi
    18 Lance Stroll
    17 Kevin Magnussen
    16 Romain Grosjean
    15 Pierre Gasly
    14 Daniil Kvyat
    13 Nico Hulkenberg
    12 Sebastian Vettel
    11 Kimi Raikkonen
    10 Alexander Albon
    09 George Russell
    08 Daniel Ricciardo
    07 Lando Norris
    06 Valtteri Bottas
    05 Sergio Perez
    04 Charles Leclerc
    03 Carlos Sainz
    02 Max Verstappen
    01 Lewis Hamilton

    1. I’d swap vettel for albon, but that’s pretty much exactly my top 10 otherwise.

  10. The Ferrari programme frustrated madly. They’ve given an F1 seat to someone who doesn’t really deserve it, and he underperforms in it. The next person up in that scheme REALLY doesn’t deserve the seat, but will get it no matter what happens because of who his father is. Then you have one guy who is pretty talented, won a title in a weak field and has his nationality in his favour, two guys who are okay but would never really reach F1 on merit and, wouldn’t you know it, another guy with a famous surname. Ferrari pander to the masses, and having Sauber as their de facto second team doesn’t help. It will be Italians, famous sons, or people from big Ferrari markets, for the foreseeable future. Compare and contrast with Mercedes, or even Red Bull, and it is painful and pitiful.

  11. In Singapore his strategy allowed him to briefly lead the race – something no other driver outside Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull managed all year – and he claimed another point.

    I believe Ricciardo briefly led the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    Overall, I think Giovinazzi was pretty poor. While Räikkönen generally seemed faster on race day, Giovinazzi seemed just slow. However, I was often puzzled by his race strategy, especially at the beginning of the season:

    Australia: he pitted very late, seemingly to help Räikkönen build a gap to his pursuers, and lost out, though his race pace was really poor
    Bahrain: late first stop again, but this time his race pace was not too bad
    China: started on the soft tire for some reason, had no pace and had to pit really early
    Baku: despite being ahead of Räikkönen, Räikkönen was allowed to discard the horrible soft tire and jumped his teammate
    Spain: again a ridiculously early stop, which dropped him behind the Williams cars and ruined his race, his race pace, however, was poor again
    Monaco: both Alfas had a horrible race pace
    Canada: strategy was alright, a spin cost him
    France: had to start on the soft tire, which was a huge strategic disadvantage, although other drivers were better at nursing the soft tire

    Had his strategies been better, he certainly would have finished higher in some races, although he still would have been the far weaker Alfa Romeo driver.

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