The 2016 season was good for rookies in the junior series. The likes of Luca Ghiotto, Charles LeClerc, Jake Hughes and Jack Aitken made a real impression on their respective fields as well as future teams.
The show stealing rookie, without a doubt, was Antonio Giovinazzi.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock or just don’t follow me on Twitter, you will know that I have a huge crush on Antonio. Between his good looks, Italian accent, natural racing talent and the fact he comes across as a total sweetheart in interviews, I was pretty taken with him from the get go.
His first race of the GP2 2016 series in Barcelona was fairly so so; completely natural for someone still finding their feet in a new car and series. Unable to finish the sprint race is a blow for your first race weekend but he dusted himself off and moved on, pushing forward
Baku (Race 3) was, undoubtedly, his crowning moment. His true colour, his natural ability couldn’t have been any more evident than that weekend. And, boy, did he do it in style!
Owning the feature race like a true pro after he lost his pole advantage. AND storming from 22nd to pole. I swear I burst a lung, cheering for him that weekend. That second pole though. That was the moment I and many others realised that he was the real deal, a future F1 driver. No ‘paid driver’ status. Just raw, pure talent.
I followed his progress closely through the series after Baku. I’d taken a special interest in Antonio and PREMA. How could two rookies, be in driver and/or team, come in and completely dominate this series? What was their secret? Or was it just pure luck?
After fighting my way to the front and getting within touching distance of Antonio at Silverstone’s Game Zone only to be bypassed *still bitter, only wanted to wish him luck*, I settled for just watching the race. Race one ending in me nearly breaking my neck as I nosed dived over the seats in front after a PREMA 1-2 *I’m elegance personified*.
No. It can’t be luck, I decided. PREMA had two of the most talented drivers on the junior grid. Pierre Gasly was already a veteran of the series at this stage, a formidable force to be tangled with and, with his Red Bull connections, destined to be in a F1 seat sooner or later. Antonio, on the other hand, had made the jump from F3 so the GP2 set up was a new concept for him.
To say that Giovinazzi’s debut in GP2 was impressive would be an extreme understatement. With the help of his teammate, they planted PREMA at the very top of the team standings. Both drivers were miles in front of their fellow races with Gasly ending the season on 219 points to Giovinazzi’s 211, a whole 52 points ahead of Sirotkin. Their talents were nurtured and they were encouraged to thrive with a little friendly competition between teammates.
I was ecstatic to find out he would Ferrari’s third driver. An Italian in a Ferrari. HELLO! First time an Italian has been a driver *first/second/third* in a Ferrari in my lifetime AND it just so happens to be my favourite Italian.
A rookie in GP2 to Ferrari’s third driver to testing with for Sauber *I’m not comparing the two but testing for Sauber is mega*.
There is no denying that he has genuine talent. To progress so quickly without a financial gain to the team is mind blowing *to me at least*. You just have to watch him race, on TV or in person to see his ability. He is such an understated driver, in my opinion, overshadowed by his now GP2 champion teammate.
The end of 2016 was heartbreaking. To watch a destroyed, disheartened Giovinazzi slink off down the paddock after Abu Dhabi brought tears to my eyes. So much hard work and the disappointment was so evident in his eyes, only made worse by this instagram post that did make me cry. *You have something to answer for, Mr Giovinazzi*
The 2017 season has yet to begin and I’m already confident that he will kick some ass.
Antonio Giovinazzi, I wish you all the best and I will no doubt be cheering you on in Monaco and Silverstone….unless my restraining order has come through by then.