‘When money rules F1 can be ruthless’ says Giovinazzi as he loses drive to Zhou

2022 F1 season

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Antonio Giovinazzi said Formula 1 “can be ruthless” after Alfa Romeo confirmed he will leave the team at the end of the year.

The 27-year-old, who is in his third full season as an F1 driver, is being replaced in the team’s line-up by Guanyu Zhou.

“F1 is emotion, talent, cars, risk, speed,” Giovinazzi said on social media after the news was announced. “But when money rules it can be ruthless.”

Underneath a picture of him as a child in a toy racing car, he added: “I believe in the surprise of an unexpected result, of big or small victories achieved thanks to one’s commitment. If this was my first picture on a F1, the last still has to be taken.”

Alfa Romeo confirmed Giovinazzi’s departure shortly before announcing Zhou’s appointment. The team will have an entirely new driver line-up next year as Valtteri Bottas arrives in place of the retiring Kimi Raikkonen.

Giovinazzi has made all 59 of his grand prix starts to date with the team. He made his Formula 1 debut with the team in 2017, when it competed as Sauber, as a substitute for Pascal Wehrlein. He returned as a full-time driver from the beginning of the 2019 season.

“Saying goodbye to a driver is never easy, especially so in the case of Antonio, who has been part of the team for so long,” said team principal Frederic Vasseur.

“As we part ways, we will cherish the memories of the good times and learn lessons from the bad ones, knowing these moments all made us grow together as a team. We wish Antonio the best for his future after the 2021 season: before then, we still have three races to achieve some good results together and finish the year strongly.”

Giovinazzi’s departure leaves Italy without a representative on the F1 grid next year. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali thanked Giovinazzi “for being a brilliant ambassador for Formula 1 and Italy.

“He has done a great job and I hope we will see him back on the F1 grid in the future. I wish him all the best and know he will do well in whatever he chooses to do.”

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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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48 comments on “‘When money rules F1 can be ruthless’ says Giovinazzi as he loses drive to Zhou”

  1. I assumed this would be the next announcement after learning about Piastri this morning. Zhou to be announced this weekend?

    1. @djarvis The Zhou announcement was planned for today ever since this plan became known last week, albeit not reported here at the time, but I saw that elsewhere.

  2. Hardly a surprise. Never shown anything to suggest he has a future in F1 – three seasons has been a generous stint.

    Even though he has been unlucky this season, that still isn’t enough to justify that he has failed to make any impression on a declining Raikonnen.

    1. Below the article confirming Zhou (so, also today then @djarvis) David, and online, I see a lot of echoes of Gio’s ‘it is about the money’

      But yeah, he himself was there at least in part because of Ferrari/italian backing, but in the end not enough of it to overcome the fact that while he’s been a bit faster than Kimi this season, it isn’t only lack of luck that puts him 9 points behind his teammate, who after a long and successful career decided to retire at the end of the season. Sure the money, but maybe, just maybe, Zhou also had a decent F2 career, not unlike GIO, and possibly more room to actually grow into a strong asset for the future.

      1. @bosyber I’m not really convinced about Zhou. During the past 6 seasons he has been in F3 and F2, he had driven for great teams, and has been beaten by most of the teammates he has had in that period. Drove two years for Prema in 2017 and 2018 with 3 and 4 teammates respectively, beaten by all.
        This year is actually the first year he is his team’s leading driver. But then he is still being beaten by a rookie.

        I don’t think that’s nearly enough to warrant an F1 seat. But the shots have been called and we’ll see what he does.

        1. I see what you are saying @mattds, but is Giovinacci really that more convincing at the time he came into F1 (I mean, those two weekends in the Sauber probably were too early for him and he botched it, which didn’t help him), he certainly hasn’t been able to prove himself convincingly. So, well, I guess we will see.

          For many, including me, for example, Norris also wasn’t entirely convincing; yes fast, with flashes of brilliance, but he also seemed inconsistent. And that really only eased during his 2nd season in F1, last year, didn’t it? So, Gio had the chance, now Zhou gets it.

          1. @bosyber

            The first problem is that it is entirely about money. He isn’t going to grow into a strong asset in the future, and that has nothing to do with his skills. Sauber has Pourchaire in their driver academy who’s in his first season in F2 (bar a couple of races at the end of last year) and who they really want to promote. He’s just not quite ready yet and still needs another year in F2, to be honest.

            Zhou was asking for a 3-year deal because he knew this was coming, the fact that it is a 1-year deal is very telling. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is replaced after a year or 2. It’s also why it’s not the smartest idea (excluding the money) since they’ll waste resources bringing him up to speed when they could’ve just relied on Giovinazzi. Sure, Gio wasn’t great, but for 1 more year, with not much of a skills gap, having him as a benchmark, not needing to bring him up to speed with not only F1 but also the team? Money is the only thing Zhou has on Gio, let alone nearly any other driver.

            Also, even Pourchaire might’ve been a better bet. He is showing (in an ART!!!) that he is now nearly up to speed with Zhou who is in the UNI. Also, say what you want about F2 and F3 is a spec series, but there is a decent gap between top teams, perhaps not like in F1, but it’s still a decent one. The fact is, all of his career in F3/F2 he has been in a top team, and not capitalised on that. Sure, he’s been good, but he hasn’t been great, which you need to be after 3 years in each series.

            Also to add to this, in F2 at least, he has been in some of the most uncompetitive fields. To be getting beaten by your teammates, coming around P6 in a top team while in an uncompetitive field, for 2 years in a row, and only now being somewhat competitive (can still realistically fall back to P5 btw) is not what I’d call a decent F2 career. It’s what I’d call an ok rookie season and a pretty bad 2nd season followed by a not much improved 3rd season.

            Also, did you see Norris’ F2 season? He was there in his rookie season, came 2nd against George in what was one of the most competitive F2 seasons ever. That’s far more impressive than coming P6/7 in an uncompetitive season. I’m not sure you saw Norris’ F2 season, but that was an amazing one in his rookie season, Zhou hasn’t been able to match that even in his 3rd season, the fact you think they’re comparable is baffling, to be honest. Sure, Norris was inconsistent, but that’s something that develops with experience, and has. Zhou is just meh in everything. You’d think in 3 years he’d be able to develop some speed at least.

          2. @bosyber just to be clear I was only commenting on Zhou and how I feel about him. To be very honest, I could not care less about Giovinazzi either. I would rather nog have Zhou nor Giovinazzi in there and instead have Piastri in a seat. Of course Piastri is linked to Renault so the dynamics are more complex, but still.

        2. @mattds as others have noted though, I think many feel that Giovinazzi wasn’t making a particularly compelling argument for appearing on the grid in place of Zhou either.

          Over the past three years, it’s been hard to think of any particular standout moments from Giovinazzi in terms of performance. He’s generally not been that spectacular in qualifying – this is the first year where he’s shown any sort of noticeable qualifying advantage over Kimi – and there aren’t many moments where somebody might say he put in a particularly special performance, such as a perfectly judged strategy call in variable conditions or a race performance that had many going “that was something special”.

          It does perhaps sum up Giovinazzi’s career that most are basically just summing him up as an OK driver, and can’t really think of anything more to say about him than that. Maybe things will work with Zhou and maybe not, but at least it is some sort of change by the team that offers the chance that he might occasionally do something of note.

      2. @bosyber

        But yeah, he himself was there at least in part because of Ferrari/italian backing, but in the end not enough of it to overcome the fact that while he’s been a bit faster than Kimi this season, it isn’t only lack of luck that puts him 9 points behind his teammate, who after a long and successful career decided to retire at the end of the season.

        Giovinazzi has been a better qualifier than Raikkonen, but not a better racer. He had poorer luck, it’s also true, but he lacked cleverness in many moments during races when compared to Kimi. Not to say Antonio has been bad or hadn’t improved, neither that he’s decidedly not good enough for Formula 1. The thing is, it’s not fully clear that he deserves more seasons in Formula 1 than what he already had, and when his main opponent for the seat has a lot of money backing him up, it gets complicated. Still, it seems he’s gonna be missed, he got a respectable amount of fans.

    2. I agree. I always try to separate whether they seem like a decent human (and Gio does) compared to their raw performance. And sadly, he hasn’t delivered a compelling argument for staying, especially with the alleged weight of Zhou’s cash.

      Whether Zhou can deliver more than Gio beyond the cash we will have to see, but without any stand out performances, Gio’s days were numbered anyway.

  3. Let’s wait for his second coming.

    1. @qeki, I see what you did there :-)

  4. I think that gio has more potential, he has progressed but as we see with many drivers when there’s a lot of uncertainty over their future they struggle either because they over drove the car too much or mind is not in the right place.

    Probably a record on repeat but with drivers like Mazepin on the grid then Gio was far from the worst.

    1. has he though? remember we’re comparing him to Raikkonnen who should have called it quits 8 years ago…

    2. Look, Gio has never enjoyed a good support from Sauber, not great when a driver need to emerge. In the last races, Sauber provided him with particularly poor strategies, probably to prove he is not worthy. In general, their strategies seems regularly designed to put Gio behind Kimi. Hence, it is quite difficult to compare…

      1. Pino

        In general, their strategies seems regularly designed to put Gio behind Kimi.

        Just forgot Kimi’s usually superb starts that don’t conform with that “plan”.

        1. And the fact that Kimi knows how to preserve his tyres better than Gio, allowing him a wider variability of strategical options. This actually works exactly against this theory.
          Surprisingly, it’s Kimi who gets portrayed as weaker than he actually is, even with his obvious decline past the 2000s glories. As Antonio is not that famous, the preferred sensationalist take given that both Alfa Romeo drivers are in fact inside the lower half of the best performers of the grid is to try bringing Kimi’s reputation down as a driver (not that he cares though).

  5. Yeah, it is ruthless, but those really talented (Russel, Lando, even Ocon not to mention Leclerc or Max) can overcome this money barrier. Gio didn’t show outstanding skill or big improvements over the couple of seasons he’s been in F1, especially given the rather fortunate pairing with a retiring Kimi.

    1. @gechichan I think only Russell and Ocon fit that bill. It’s likely that without Mercedes support neither driver would have managed to go past Euro F3. Leclerc’s family isn’t the richest in Monaco, but they are still somewhat loaded, Max has F1 and racing lineage on both sides (always helps) and Norris’s father is among the richest businessmen in England.

      1. I don’t think Mercedes / RB / Ferrari support should be a negative. If you are talented, big teams will get you in their program, but it’s up to you to prove you deserve the seat. Gio had Ferrari backing, so he was on equal ground to someone like Russell, but failed to impress and the vacant seat went to an outsider like Sainz.

    2. @gechican indeed, and he had Italian (Ferrari) backing for a lot of his time.

      Also, Norris had family money and Verstappen family connection (and nostalgia) to find money, though on its own perhaps not enough w/o McLaren and Merc/Red Bull backing due to showing promise.

      Norris is to me a bit comparable to Zhou, since while he was quite the promise, in F2 he actually was behind Russell (yeah, okay Russell), and Albon and there was clear doubt about exactly how well he’d do in F1, and that lasted through his first season and only really eased last year. Look at him now. Of course, similar goes for Tsunoda, who has not yet been able to prove himself. I guess we’ll see how it turns out, in both cases.

      1. sorry, @gechichan, typo there. Ah, @wsrgo wrote similar but more succinct :)

      2. @bosyber

        Norris beat Albon, and at least was very fast. Also, it was his rookie season with one of the more competitive F2 fields, not his 3rd all in relatively lackluster fields. Zhou hasn’t really shown any speed or promise whatsoever. Their seasons aren’t that comparable at all. Also, Norris in his rookie F3 season in a Carlin came 1st beating Zhou convincingly who came 8th in his 3rd F3 season in a Prema which was the better team that year (spec series cars aren’t as equal as people think). They aren’t comparable at all, and even (as you correctly point out) Norris had his doubts.

    3. @gechichan

      Got to agree with you. Either you bring money, or enough talent to overcome the lack of money. Gio wasn’t good enough to really warrant a seat without funding. Plus, I thought he stuck around on the grid longer than expected because of his nationality.. so.. I can’t really take his comments seriously.

  6. Unsurprising. Overall in these three seasons, he’s failed to convincingly beat Kimi in the races, which matter the most.

  7. I was expecting this. Mind you, probably lots of people were expecting this. It is much easier to justify your place in a team if you’re producing results, and much harder if you aren’t. From the outside it looks to me as though Antonio (and Kimi) wasn’t producing the results the team needed. I can’t see Alfa Romeo’s management being happy with second to last team results. Like it or not, a good car makes a driver look much better than an awkward car does.

  8. He was ok. A solid lower mid-fielder. And he wasn’t a pay driver. He finished 2nd to Pierre Gasly as team-mate in GP2. He could not have been that bad. But there had to have a spark somewhere, some mega qualifying, some inspired tyre choice.

    I think that 2-race 2017 promotion came too quickly for him. And because Leclerc was so mega in 2017 GP2 / F2, he could not land a Ferrari assisted race seat in 2018. Those became 2 critical early age years, spent on side-lines. May be he should have done DTM, WEC, Super Formula at that time.

    1. Yep good points there sumedh, wrong timing for him and it didn’t really happen. He had three seasons of F1 and wasn’t bad, but I can’t say he’s been my highlight of the weekend many a times.

  9. Still preferable to Mazepin, Stroll, Latifi. Also Albon got a second chance and I hope Gio will get one also. Another positive thing is that Ferrari racing in WEC in Hypercar and that should be an exciting prospect for him much more exciting than racing a GT3 spec Ferrari.

  10. It makes sense. He is hardly Setting the grid on fire and they will now have a seasoned racer, team builder and leader and reliable hands in Bottas and a Rookie with a ton of cash and sponsors

  11. While it is sad that money plays a major role im F1. It cant be the oy reason why he lost his seat. If he was doing well in races he would not have been replaced.

    1. He would be losing the seat come rain or shine.

  12. I warmed a bit to him over time, but not enough to see this as a disgrace. He’s just not good enough to be owed a seat.

  13. I can’t help but agree with most comments here.

    Gio has had three years in F1. More than many others.

    He is also Ferrari’s reserve driver.

    But he hasn’t set the world on fire. My sense is he was not going to get renewed, regardless of Zhou and his backing from Peking

  14. Ultimately, most drivers come into F1 through money. Either wealthy backing they got along the way (like a Carlos Slim, for instance), or through backing from a team. Giovinazzi leveraged his nationality to an extent to get the Ferrari backing and that got him a seat in F1 over other junior drivers three years ago. I think his performances in the junior series’ did earn him that spot, for what it’s worth. But over the past three seasons, I don’t think he did enough to make an argument to keep that seat.

    That it goes to a Chinese driver with money seems irrelevant to the fact that he was going to lose that seat one way or another, if it wasn’t Zhou, I doubt he’d be the preferred option at this point as Ferrari moves on to other junior drivers and I doubt Sauber would have kept him (or maybe even took him on in the first place) without said Ferrari injecting some extra cashflow into the team.

  15. Is he serious? Even if he brings twice more money that Zhou, I wouldn’t sign him. Giovinazzi has been one of the weakest racers for a few years. He is so slow pace-wise that even Kimi, who is very old by F1 standards, beats him easily even starting from the pit lane.

    1. Sviat

      He is so slow pace-wise that even Kimi, who is very old by F1 standards, beats him easily even starting from the pit lane.

      Gio had bad luck in numerous occasions this season, when he’s improved a bit, and has been a good qualifier too, better than Kimi. But apart from that, there isn’t a strong argument for him. Not a better racer than Kimi and not clever enough with race planning and strategy.

  16. Giovinazzi was pretty impressive in GP2, but since then, not anymore.

    Crashed way too much since his debut and failed to develop. I would expect that by his 3rd season he would start to bring better results than an aging Kimi but he still failed to do that once more.

    He is being sacked because of chinese money, but he could be for whatever the reason.
    He just wasn’t ever good enough to be there.

  17. Ferrari is paying for his seat right? If he actually had it on merit he’d have a bit more of a point. Problem with middling teams like Alfa is the money to put out a faster car with a competent pay driver matters way more than a more promising talent in a dog. F1 isn’t a driver meritocracy. Perhaps the new regs will change that but remains to be seen.

  18. Anyway, apparently he found a seat in formula-E with dragon, so I wish him luck and good results there, quite a few younger single-seater drivers ended up doing pretty nicely there.

  19. Both Kimi and Nazi overstayed. They should never have raced this year. The seats should have gone to Hulkenberg and Ilott for 2021. Alfa Romeo has no business being behind Williams. Neither driver will be missed, one wayyyy past his prime and the other quite mediocre, if not worthless.

  20. perhaps choose a better nickname for Antonio than what you have chosen

    1. Meant at the guy above me

      1. Noted! Tonio then.

  21. Funny thing to say when you wouldn’t have made it to F1 on talent.

  22. Gio had his chance, and not impressed, time to move on, let’s see what Zhou can do other than bring a load of cash. Also i would like to see some of the F2 hot prospects as reserve drivers.

  23. I really feel for giovinazzi because he is 100% right.
    I have no hate to the guy but it is disgusting that Zhou is ONLY in the team because of money, he was mediocre in F3 and spending 3 seasons in F2 racing weak competition in a ‘top’ team(yes F2 is a spec series but the top funded teams have best tacticians, car builders, engineers, pit crew etc) he hasn’t been close to winning the title!

    Alfas owner Stellantis who want to increase their market presence in the huge mainland chinese market plus the near infinite pile of cash ccp backed Zhou brings as he is a walking propaganda advertisement on a world stage (“First chinese to do xyz” “wow the first time a chinese driver done that all hail china “) for Xi means that Giovinazzi never had a chance in retaining his seat.

    On a similar note useless pay mega rich drivers will always be a necessary evil BUT there needs to be a better filter on new drivers racing in F1 and abusing the super licence system.
    To be eligible for F1 a driver MUST at least win a 2nd tier series such as F2, super formula etc to be eligible for a full time F1 seat , NO ifs of buts.
    Its insane that Oscar Piastri who could possibly be the next Hamilton winning F3 title on debut season and looks almost certain to win F2 cannot get a F1 seat but a mediocre state backed journeyman who has raced for the best teams in f3 and f2 for 6 years who has won ZERO titles can. I am not targeting zhou here, Mazepin, Stroll and Latifi was equally crap in lower formulas not winning anything major yet because they raced for overfunded teams funded by rich daddy they finished high enough to gain the needed super licence points to be eligible to race in F1.

    TL;DR pay driver will sadly always exist but the super licence system for F1 eligibility needs a HUGE overhaul to stop abuse but the FIA will not do anything because its corrupt and money talks not talent.

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