The Sauber F1 team have confirmed that Ferrari junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi will be handed a race seat for the 2019 season alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
Following the promotion of fellow junior driver Charles Leclerc to the senior team, Ferrari have managed to place another of their academy drivers on the Formula One grid.
The 24-year-old has had to wait a long time for his chance; he is promoted from his test and reserve role to earn a full-time race seat, replacing Marcus Ericsson, who has been kept on as development driver and brand ambassador.
“I am delighted to be joining the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team. This is a dream come true, and it is a great pleasure to have the chance to race for this team,” said Giovinazzi.
“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.”
Under the terms of their partnership, Ferrari are able to place a junior driver at Sauber, which was part of the reason Leclerc was given an opportunity at the Swiss team.
Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur confirmed that Giovinazzi has in fact filled the seat allocated by Ferrari, which in turn confirms that the earlier Raikkonen deal was as a replacement for Marcus Ericsson.
“We are very pleased to reveal the complete driver line-up for the 2019 season. We first signed Kimi Räikkönen, an extremely experienced driver who will contribute to the development of our car and will accelerate the progress of our team as a whole,” said Vasseur.
“Together with Alfa Romeo, we are delighted to welcome Antonio Giovinazzi, who will take the place of Charles Leclerc. We have already had the opportunity to work with him in the past and he has proven to have great potential.”
Antonio Giovinazzi joined the Ferrari stable after finishing a close second to Pierre Gasly in his debut GP2 season in 2016, taking five wins in an impressive rookie year. This association with Ferrari earned him test and FP1 outings at both Sauber and Haas, who have strong links with the Italian team.
He made his Formula One debut as a stand-in for the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber in the first two races of 2017, the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.
However, his two-race stint at the team ended with crashes in the Chinese Grand Prix qualifying and race.
He has, however, been involved in extensive simulator work for Ferrari and impressed with his pace at the in-season test in Budapest earlier this year.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images