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Formula 1

Dutch GP’s quali star must prove his main limitation is gone

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Antonio Giovinazzi’s timing may just be impeccable. If what Alfa Romeo says is true and its 2022 Formula 1 seats are still up for grabs, Giovinazzi’s case could be about to get a lot stronger.

Depending on which report you read Giovinazzi is either out of F1 at the end of 2021 or almost certain to stay. Earlier this weekend he said he was not aware what will happen to him for next season yet.

Alfa Romeo’s preference for an Italian driver kept him on the grid this year and it may be an important factor for next, too. But Giovinazzi is fighting several drivers for a seat, with Valtteri Bottas, Alex Albon, Nyck de Vries, Guanyu Zhou and Theo Pourchaire all linked to Alfa Romeo.

And this has not been a vintage season for Alfa Romeo so Giovinazzi’s high points have been limited.

He was one of the stars of qualifying at Zandvoort though, equalling his career-best starting position with seventh in a surprisingly good result for Alfa Romeo at the Dutch Grand Prix.

Now comes the challenge of doing something Giovinazzi has, more often than not, failed to do: convert.

Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Dutch GP Zandvoort F1

“From P7 I think we can do a great job,” he insists. “The main target is to keep position. If we can keep position it will be great.”

Giovinazzi progressed last season and again into 2021 with his capacity to produce more rounded performances. Back in 2019 and parts of 2020 it was a little too easy to find a sneaky error in Giovinazzi’s races. Sometimes they weren’t so sneaky, as costly crashes at Spa two years in a row can attest.

Opportunities for points have been scarce this season for Alfa Romeo though so Giovinazzi’s improvements have been unheralded. His better drives haven’t been worth what they might once have been. Well, now’s the chance to change that.

“This year it’s really difficult to understand which track can be better for us,” he admits.

“Just straightaway from FP1 the car was here and we had a good pace.

“When it’s like this it’s just better to build up confidence with the lap, the car, and then you can put it all together in qualifying.”

Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Dutch GP Zandvoort F1

The last time Giovinazzi was in contention to score points was Hungary, when Williams won big. Giovinazzi was not in the picture because of the pitlane speeding penalty he picked up.

A P7 start on a track that is going to feature little overtaking is a big chance for Giovinazzi to prove the calibre of driver he is developing into and remind the team – if there is still any time to make a difference – that he merits a place on the 2022 grid.

There is still a nagging feeling with Giovinazzi that he cannot be completely counted on to nail everything when it matters. It’s not the feeling other midfield teams get from the likes of Pierre Gasly or George Russell, who have come up big when opportunities have presented themselves.

Now’s as good a time as any, and as good an opportunity as any, for Giovinazzi to show the weakness of finding ways to drop a good result is in the past.

It’s important for him and the team, too. Back-to-back strokes of good fortune for Williams have put Alfa Romeo on the ropes in their fight for eighth in the constructors’ championship.

Finishing seventh or eighth at Zandvoort is not going to propel Alfa Romeo towards overcoming its 17-point deficit but it would keep the team’s faint hopes alive and be a good boost into the closing months of the season.

Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Dutch GP Zandvoort F1

Giovinazzi has been the more impressive driver at Alfa Romeo this year but if you glanced at the results you wouldn’t know it. The case for keeping him has hardly been watertight – Kimi Raikkonen’s retiring but was likely to be replaced anyway. That’s the man Giovinazzi’s being judged against, which isn’t the greatest omen.

This may all be a moot point. Giovinazzi’s fate might be sealed either way. But on Sunday he needs to perform like it isn’t.

Because if there’s still something to prove he is unlikely to have a better chance all year to prove it.

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