Sauber have announced that Antonio Giovinazzi will partner Kimi Raikkonen for the 2019 Formula One season.
The 2016 GP2 runner-up served as Sauber’s reserve driver this season and his promotion will see him replace Marcus Ericsson who appears to be leaving the team after four seasons.
With Alfa Romeo already partnering Sauber, the decision to sign Giovinazzi is a positive move for Italian motorsport as it sees the return of a regular Italian driver to the F1 grid for first time since Jarno Trulli drove for Caterham in 2011.
Giovinazzi himself recognises the importance of representing Alfa Romeo as a “huge honour” given his history with the brand.
The Italian has already driven for Sauber before, having replaced an injured Pascal Wehrlein at start of 2017 season in Australia and China.
With Raikkonen having already signed, 2019 could be an exciting season for Sauber as we see a real battle of experience vs youth between a soon to-be ex Ferrari talent and a young rising protégé who could potentially replace Sebastian Vettel when he leaves.
Discussing the benefits that Raikkonen will bring, Team Principal – Fredric Vasseur believes that the Finn “will contribute to the development of our car and will accelerate the progress of our team as a whole”.
Vasseur meanwhile believes that Giovinazzi has “great potential” so expect Sauber to be one of the teams to watch next year if the Ferrari youngster can repeat the success that Charles Leclerc has enjoyed so far this season and mount a real threat to his experienced teammate.
Ericsson faces a tough decision about his future with the final pieces of the seating jigsaw starting to fall into place.
Force India, Haas,Toro Rosso and Williams all have seats available but all four look to be unlikely destinations despite the Swede’s huge financial backing.
Williams are expected to take at least one of Esteban Ocon or George Russell on loan from Mercedes. If only one of them joins then they are expected to be partnered by Artem Markelov or current driver, Sergey Sirotkin.
Toro Rosso are set to hand Daniil Kvyat a second chance alongside a young rookie of who it may be is currently unclear.
Force India meanwhile are considering their options with Sergio Perez looking set to stay but partner Lance Stroll.
Haas haven’t talked much about their driver lineup for next season but are expected to retain Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for 2019, now that Leclerc has joined Ferrari.
Ericsson therefore could well find himself sidelined next season or move on and race elsewhere.