Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur has revealed he sees Antonio Giovinazzi becoming a team leader in the future.
Giovinazzi has Kimi Raikkonen as his current team-mate, the duo about to embark on a third consecutive campaign as the driver line-up for the rebranded Sauber outfit.
While the 27-year-old Italian has not exactly set the world alight since joining Alfa Romeo in 2019, there has been discernible improvement in his performances and results.
From being vastly outscored by Raikkonen in their first season together, 43-14 in terms of World Championship points, they finished all-square in 2020 with a 4-4 draw as the team struggled much more in comparison.
But at least Giovinazzi finished in the points in three races to the 2007 World Champion’s two, while he also earned a reputation for being one of the best starters on the grid who continually gained positions on the opening lap of races.
There had been doubts about whether Giovinazzi and/or 41-year-old Raikkonen would remain with the team for a third year, but faith has been kept in both drivers who during their respective careers have each had a close connection with Ferrari – suppliers of Alfa Romeo’s engines.
Although retirement has been put on hold for Raikkonen – now Formula 1’s most experienced racer in history – at least for the time being, the hope for Alfa Romeo team principal Vasseur is that Giovinazzi will ultimately step up into the role of a leader.
“I think the next step [for Giovinazzi] is to get more consistency during the race,” Vasseur told Motorsport-Total.com. “But he has been making good progress for a while and is improving in every area.
“He probably has to take the lead of the team on his shoulders to be able to take over some decisions. But we are on the way and he is getting better from race to race. And I’m pretty confident about the next season.
“If you look at 2019, he got a third of Kimi’s points and he was six times ahead of Kimi in qualifying. In 2020 they were tied, they had the same level of points, the same level of performance in qualifying.”
In terms of the qualifying head-to-head record to which Vasseur referred, there were 17 races in 2020 and Giovinazzi shaded it 9-8 after they had been level going into the concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.