Opinion: Why Giovinazzi had a better 2020 than most think and what is in Store for 2021?

Martina Franca in Italy is not the most noisy or touristy part of a truly magnificent country, whose charm stems
from the fact that it isn’t yet overwhelmed by large swathes of visitors.

This elegant destination of around 50,000 inhabitants consists of the famous Centro Storico, a historical centre that blends a sense of serenity with free-flowing twisty white alleys.

It’s just the kind of place where one can’t have enough of what’s essentially a maze, given that most structures, despite made of pure white colour and nothing more than winding alleys, make for an ideal spot for shutterbugs.

Is that the only maze about Martina Franca?

One of the biggest mazes of the city belongs to the topsy-turvy but ultimately incredibly captivating world of Formula 1. He is tall. He is promising and has got himself a renewed contract with a Ferrari-powered team.

Despite not being some incredibly fast and mean killing machine kind of driver, Antonio Giovinazzi has found himself in business for 2021.

So what’s this maze then?

What could be exciting about a tall bloke with Tarzan-like hair? He’s not even in some powerful midfield car. In 2020, he was anything but a threat to an AlphaTauri or to any team faring marginally upward than the Italian stable.

Little fault of the driver’s then that the car Gio was aligned with was only as quick as the several mules who form a key part of the animal population in the driver’s Italian hometown.

But then some things are tied to fate, aren’t they?

In a sport where Ferrari are, despite their recent string of results, bellied with more heartbreaks and anxieties than excitement. Antonio Giovinazzi is the only Italian driver on the grid. He’s therefore the only current link between the most charming Italian bloodline in Formula 1; a team that flows in the veins of countless who regard it as their lifeline in F1.

And unless the grid changes rapidly with more Italians suddenly emerging, Giovinazzi will constantly spike someone’s adrenaline considering a question that’s become quite a maze in modern F1:

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Will an Italian driver finally get to race for Ferrari, Giancarlo Fisichella being the last man to do so in 2009?

Now, while that is still very much stymied by the unpredictable, what’s nearly certain is that the doors to Maranello aren’t going to be open anytime soon. At 27, Antonio Giovinazzi is as old at a Kvyat, a few years younger than a Perez, and only a few months older than Sainz.

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Drivers with more points and experience than him have found themselves being handed the stick. And in 2020, despite gathering only four points, Antonio Giovinazzi found himself a 2021 drive.

Miracle? So, some extra brownie points for a model-like frame?

No.

Remember, 2020 was an extremely dull year for Alfa Romeo. Compared to 21 races in the 2019 Formula 1 season, only 17 races could be held last year in 2020, which for a small backmarker was several races less from which to score.

Even Kimi Raikkonen struggled to score points for Alfa in 2020. Image: EssentiallySport

Even in the races where it seemed the driver who was contesting in only his second F1 season, he took his chances and emerged cleanly. How is that?

If you count the negatives, then surely there are a few that just do not side with Antonio, proving clearly that he’s yet to demonstrate the steely resolve that one would expect from a young guy.

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Raikkonen, the sport’s oldest driver, after all, finished with exactly the same points as the much younger Italian. But if you see the positives, you’d know Antonio did the job expected of him quietly so, despite having all this while a sleepy, tawdry C39.

Antonio Giovinazzi was the first of the two drivers to open his account, and thus his team’s in 2020 – not Kimi Raikkonen. A fine P9 at the very venue where he’d collected his first Formula 1 points was a flying start no less for a driver not exactly considered a brutal force in the sport.

Think of it – his maiden 2020 drive – the P9 at Spielberg’s curtain-raiser– was actually an improvement over his last year’s result, this being with a slower car, that lacked front-line speed.

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Even as the next two rounds at Styria and Hungry would yield results where Kimi would win the teammate battle, Antonio bounced at Silverstone with a fourteenth, a drive which even though fared lowly, was even better than Hulkenberg (DNF, began P13) and the likes of Kvyat and Raikkonen.

While Giovinazzi didn’t once allow Nicolas Latifi and either among the Haas drivers to undermine him, despite functioning in a car that often looked even slower than the American side, the fireworks didn’t exactly belong to the Italian.

The midfield battle of 2020 was a packed battleground

But that didn’t stop Antonio Giovinazzi to make heads turn- for that’s the truth- at tracks where one would have so easily undermined him. This is because he had, never in his life stepped onto some newly introduced tracks in a Formula 1 car until last year.

And that too in the midst of a world championship with all the mounting pressure of lost chances and the persistent worries of contending in a barely-there car.

Even as he failed to put a recalcitrant machine into Q2, something Alfa achieved for the first time thanks to Kimi (P14 in quali) at Spain, the simpleton shined brightly at tracks like Imola and the desperately dangerous Nurburgring.

Two in three occasions where Antonio Giovinazzi slipped into a top-ten finish in the 2020 championship, came courtesy his P10 results. One each at Imola and the Nurburgring, the latter also the setting of a widely-watched Kimi-Gio video on YouTube!

After beating his teammate at Russia (P11- a fine improvement over his 2019’s P15), where the Finn did well enough to bag a podium once early on in his second Ferrari stint, Giovinazzi fared stronger in the final few rounds.

In a season where those who were quite literally battling to save their careers and didn’t in the end, think Magnussen, think Grosjean, as also the Russian Torpedo, all of whom have bagged podiums (the Frenchman ten of them), Antonio’s keep-it-simple-and-give-it-all approach was affable and perhaps career-saving.

Come to think of it!

Does it even occur to us fans obsessed with numbers that Antonio improved his results (via grid performance on race-day) at no fewer than Austria, Britain, Hungary, and Russia?

Have we even given him credit for it?

Actually, think of what might have the Italian managed with a slightly better package, higher downforce and at least, better straight-line speed than the sobbing (rather depleted) force he had all of 2020 had the season not been a
truncated one?

It’s easy to pass snide remarks at someone who may not immediately seem impressive akin to a “Last Lap Lando!” or a “Super Perez,” both of whom have commanding machineries and indeed, smooth race craft?

But what about the boy with dreamy eyes who made the most of the chances afforded to him.

Think Interlagos 2019! Did Giovinazzi not pounce on his chance with that P5? Did we even think that he’d lead a Grand Prix? Think Singapore that same year? As the famous saying goes – we do not know what the future holds for us, but we do know who holds that future.

In his case, the Vasseur-led side, keen to improve, hungry to outperform its closest set of rivals, has vested faith in a man who’s as stranger to shenanigans as is summers to the Arctic.

Knowing his penchant to give his honest best to every race, fair to say-Giovinazzi’s future is being held by this hope to certainly improve in the times to come.

That’s all one can say at the moment.

2019 vs 2020 Results

      2019   Grands Prix      2019   Race result     2020   Race result
  Australia  P15  –
  China  P15  –  
  Azerbaijan  P12               –
  Spain  P16  P16
  Monaco  P19              –
  Canada  P13  –
  France  P16  –
  *Austria   Round 1   Round 2      P10   –      P9   P14
  *Great Britain   Round 1   Round 2    DNF   –      P14   P17
  Germany  P13  –
        Hungary  P18  P17
  Belgium  DNF  DNF
Italy*   *Monza for 2019   *Tuscany for 2020    P9       –    P16       DNF
  Singapore  P10  –
  Russia            P15  P11
  Japan  P14  –
  Mexico  P14  –
  USA  P14  –
  Brazil  P5  –
  Nurbrugring  –  P10
  Portugal  –  P15
  Imola  –  P10  
  Turkey  –  DNF
*Bahrain   Round 1   Round 2    P11    P16   P13
  Abu Dhabi   P16

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