Ferrari chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne believes that junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi “has the potential” to drive for the Scuderia in Formula 1 one day, but remained coy about putting him in a seat in the near future.
Giovinazzi secured a third driver role with Ferrari for 2017 after finishing second in last year’s GP2 Series, and was subbed in to replace the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber for the opening two rounds of the season.
The Italian put in an impressive display over the Australian Grand Prix weekend on debut, almost reaching Q2, but suffered a crash in qualifying in China.
Along with congratulating lead Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel on his victory in Australia two weeks ago, Marchionne also paid tribute to Giovinazzi in his statement after the race for his debut display.
With Kimi Raikkonen due to be out of contract at the end of the year, Giovinazzi has been linked as a possible outsider for a Ferrari F1 seat in 2018, with the Italian marque having a history for hiring home-grown drivers.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday’s race in China, Marchionne said he didn’t think Giovinazzi would be ready for a seat with Ferrari in 2018, but thinks he has what it takes to race for the team in the future.
“I don’t know about that,” Marchionne said when asked if Giovinazzi would be ready for a Ferrari seat next year.
“I think he certainly has the potential to be a Ferrari driver. Not withstanding what happened yesterday [in qualifying], he’s a great driver.
“He’s got great instincts. We need to see him develop.”
Giovinazzi suffered another crash during Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, marking a disappointing end to his second weekend in F1.
“I want to apologize again to the team,” Giovinazzi said. “They did a great job to get the car ready for the race. It was a shame that I crashed again today.
“A learning lesson – I just want to forget this weekend quickly.”
While Giovinazzi has not yet been confirmed as replacing Wehrlein for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, it is thought unlikely that the German will have regained full fitness in time for the race, making a third start likely for the Ferrari youngster.