Antonio Giovinazzi

MACAU, MACAO - NOVEMBER 17:  Double R Racing driver Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy in action during the Formula 3 event as part of the 60th Macau Grand Prix on November 17, 2013 in Macau, Macau.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
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Sauber confirms Giovinazzi to deputize for Wehrlein at first test

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As expected, but not necessarily official until confirmed directly by Sauber F1 Team, Ferrari third driver Antonio Giovinazzi has been confirmed to fill in for Pascal Wehrlein at next week’s first test of the Formula 1 season at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona which runs from February 27-March 2. The second test, also in Barcelona, is March 7-10.

Sauber called Wehrlein’s injuries, reported as either neck or back injuries in other outlets, “back problems” and said further information will follow when available.

The team has not, as yet, confirmed its test plan of when Giovinazzi and Marcus Ericsson, who ran the team’s filming day earlier this week, will drive.

“We took the decision that Pascal will not be driving in the first test in Barcelona. We will monitor his medical progress and will then decide on the next steps,” Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said in a release.

Wehrlein had already confirmed his absence but the team hadn’t, yet. He will be on site though.

“It is a pity that I cannot be in the car during the first test days, but I will be in Barcelona in order to get familiar with the team’s procedures and also to follow the Sauber C36-Ferrari on track,” he said.

Giovinazzi, who made his first test with Ferrari at the tail end of last year, added, “I thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this real, and also Ferrari for allowing me to replace Pascal for test one in Barcelona.”

Pascal Wehrlein to miss first F1 pre-season test through injury

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Manor Racing walks in the Pitlane during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Pascal Wehrlein has confirmed that he will miss the first collective Formula 1 pre-season test in Barcelona later this month through injury.

Wehrlein sustained a neck and back injury after rolling his car during the Race of Champions in Miami last month when he crashed after crossing the finish line at the end of a heat.

Doctors in Miami told Wehrlein to miss the second day of the event as a precaution, but the German is yet to fully recover and will now miss the first pre-season running in Barcelona, set to begin on February 27.

Wehrlein had been due to make his first public appearance for Sauber in Barcelona, having joined the team from Manor following his rookie campaign in 2016.

Sauber is yet to officially announce that Wehrlein will be missing the test, but is set to field Ferrari youngster Antonio Giovinazzi in its second car.

Giovinazzi finished second in the GP2 Series last year and enjoyed his first F1 test with a 2015-spec Ferrari earlier this month at Fiorano.

The Italian driver is likely to share the four days of running in Barcelona with full-season driver Marcus Ericsson, who returns for a third year with Sauber in 2017.

The second pre-season test in Barcelona will begin on March 7, giving Wehrlein almost three weeks to get fully fit in time to make his first appearance for Sauber.

Antonio Giovinazzi enjoys “emotional” first Ferrari F1 test at Fiorano

2016 GP2 Series Round 10
Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Saturday 1 October 2016.
Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA, PREMA Racing) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SLA4419
© GP2 Series
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2016 GP2 vice-champion Antonio Giovinazzi enjoyed his first Formula 1 test with Ferrari at Fiorano on Thursday.

Giovinazzi, 23, finished second in last year’s GP2 standings behind Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly, and stood out as one of the best rookies to grace the series in recent years.

The Italian’s efforts were good enough to land him a role as Ferrari’s third driver for the 2017 season, as confirmed by CEO Sergio Marchionne in December.

Giovinazzi was given his first taste of F1 machinery on Thursday, completing running in the 2015-spec Ferrari F1 car at Fiorano, its private test track.

According to Ferrari, Giovinazzi “ran a test program, approved by the FIA, aimed at making a comparison between data acquired in the simulator and on track.”

“It was a wonderful feeling, as this was my first time driving a Formula 1 car. For an Italian, driving out of the pits in a Ferrari is an amazing experience,” Giovinazzi said after the test.

“The actual testing was very interesting, with so many procedures to follow. But the guys in the team were very nice to me and extremely helpful and that made everything much easier. I’d like to thank the whole team.”

Antonio Giovinazzi joins Ferrari F1 as third driver for 2017

2016 GP2 Series Round 10
Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Saturday 1 October 2016.
Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA, PREMA Racing) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SLA4419
© GP2 Series
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GP2 Series runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi will join Ferrari as its third driver for the 2017 Formula 1 season.

Giovinazzi, 22, moved up from Formula 3 to GP2 for 2016 with Prema Racing, and narrowly missed out on becoming the first rookie champion since Nico Hulkenberg in 2009, losing the title to Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly.

Giovinazzi enjoyed no previous affiliation to any F1 team, but did spend a day in Ferrari’s simulator earlier this year, suggesting that a link-up could be on the cards.

During his pre-Christmas media lunch, Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne announced that Giovinazzi would be joining as the team’s third driver, before formal confirmation followed on Monday afternoon.

“Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has reached an agreement of cooperation with driver Antonio Giovinazzi,” a short statement issued by the team read.

“Following such agreement, Giovinazzi will take on the role of Third Driver of the Scuderia in the 2017 season.”

“We have not hired Giovinazzi to emulate Max Verstappen, who is a unique case,” Marchionne is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We hired him because he is a very good driver and Ferrari need young people ready to go.”

Giovinazzi took part in the end-of-year GP2 test in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, suggesting that he could be set to remain in the series alongside his Ferrari commitments.

Ferrari also has youngsters Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco on its books, both of whom will race in GP2 next year with Prema, Giovinazzi’s old team.

Gasly crowned GP2 Series champion in Abu Dhabi finale

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Sunday 27 November 2016.
Pierre Gasly (FRA, PREMA Racing) 
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _R3I2055
© GP2 Series
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Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly has been crowned the 2016 GP2 Series champion at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi despite only finishing ninth at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Gasly moved back into the lead of the drivers’ championship by taking pole and the feature race victory on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, leapfrogging Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.

Gasly entered the final race of the year holding a 12-point advantage over Giovinazzi, but started only eighth on the grid by virtue of the reverse order from Saturday’s results. Giovinazzi lined up fourth on the grid, needing a podium finish to stand any chance of winning the title.

Giovinazzi’s hopes were dashed off the line when he bogged down, dropping to fifth and failing to make up any ground through the opening stages. Gasly also failed to make up any positions, sitting eighth in the early stages.

From there, neither driver was able to mount the kind of charge that is perhaps expectant of would-be champions, but for Gasly, it mattered little. He managed to close up on Giovinazzi as the Italian toiled for position, going wheel-to-wheel with Norman Nato and slipping back to sixth.

A late charge from outgoing GP2 racer Mitch Evans relegated Gasly to ninth by the checkered flag, but with Giovinazzi only finishing sixth, the Red Bull junior had done enough to clinch his maiden GP2 title.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s been such a long season with hard moments. We kept fighting to the end,” Gasly said after the race.

“The car has been fantastic all year, the team did a great job. To get it at the last race is just unbelievable.”

The race itself was won by Alex Lynn in his final GP2 start, with the Briton poised to move into the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2016. Lynn was joined on the podium by GP2 veteran Johnny Cecotto Jr., while Sergey Sirotkin finished third to also secure P3 in the drivers’ standings.

Gasly’s future remains unclear after being passed over for a Formula 1 seat with Toro Rosso for 2017, with reports suggesting that he could be poised to spend next year racing in the Japanese Super Formula series.