Alfa Romeo Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi is no doubt aware that he is driving to survive in F1. His current team is yet to confirm their driver lineup for 2022, the last on the grid yet to do so. Although, we do know Valtteri Bottas will be joining the ranks after having spent 5 seasons with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. As much as Giovinazzi requires skillful driving he could also do with some luck. Sadly, this was lacking at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
Having already been given a penalty for a new gearbox, Antonio Giovinazzi also lost radio communications with his pit wall shortly after the lights went out. By the time the chequered flag was waved Giovinazzi crossed the line in P17 whereas his teammate Kimi Räikkönen made it comfortably into the points in P8 after a bold strategy late on. Giovinazzi reflected on his outcome calling the technical gremlins ‘a mess’.
Following the gear box penalty, Antonio Giovinazzi started the Russian Grand Prix in P16 but there was reason to be cheerful as many expected the popular Italian racer to gain places due to the race pace seen from the under-pressure driver in recent weeks. Unfortunately, the Alfa Romeo racer’s Grand Prix was badly compromised.
As a result of technical issues, Giovinazzi could only rely on manual signals from his pit board. Therefore, on a day which was already trying for so many due to variable weather conditions late on, the unconfirmed driver was never truly able to manage his race. Most importantly, he was unable to make the bold move early on to change tyres in the closing stages of the race as the rain fell.
Even before this, any hope Antonio Giovinazzi had to improve on his starting position of P17 was quickly dashed after contact with the Haas of Mick Schumacher. This incident, resulted in the Italian being down in P19 by the end of lap one. From here, his Grand Prix was and uphill battle:
"I had contact with I don't know who in Turn 2, and I lost a little bit of position there," Giovinazzi told the media. "I had no radio from lap one, so it was impossible to communicate with the team, and it was just a difficult race with the fuel saving. I tried to watch my pit on the main straight to see what I need to do, but without the radio it was just a mess.”
The impact of the lack of communications did not stop there and was a clear reminder that F1 is very much a team sport:
"And then also with the rain in the end I had no communication. It was just a silence race for myself, so just a difficult race from lap one.” Giovinazzi explained. "It was also difficult to overtake, so I lost a lot of time there. Then when I was in free air the pace was good. But we lost a lot of laps."
The fact that Antonio Giovinazzi was able to demonstrate good pace in clean air should bode well for him but there is no doubt that the Italian is running out of races when it comes to impressing the decision makers.
Already on Friday, Antonio Giovinazzi had encountered (in his words) 'inconsistent wind' which led to him crashing out of Free Practice 2. Having run wide onto the astroturf at turn eight, he lost the rear end of his Alfa Romeo and slid backwards into the barriers. Giovinazzi’s troubles did not go unnoticed by Alfa Romeo’s team boss Frédéric Vasseur:
"This weekend was a bit more difficult," Vasseur told the publication Motorsport.com. "We had an issue with the brakes yesterday. I don't want to say that the race was bad at all, because we had too many issues. The first one was the contact at Turn 1.”
"Mick hit the rear of Antonio, he went straight, he damaged the floor and then he was stuck behind the group. And then we lost the radio communication from the beginning, so we had to show the signal the old-fashioned way. As soon as you have to give orders about management and so on, it's difficult. You can't give as many details as when you are speaking, and you can't say that you have to save tyres or fuel at this level. He was not able to speak at all. And at the beginning we were able to speak with him, and then he lost completely the communication."
However, Vasseur’s comments on Alfa Romeo’s official team website may give Antonio Giovinazzi reason to be hopeful he could yet be retained for 2022:
“While Antonio was hit and had to recover from the back. He was in a few good fights and made some nice overtaking moves – all the more so as he had no radio.”
Also, Vasseur reminded the media (as much as his own driver) that one race would not be the decisive factor:
"You don't have to pay attention to one session. Over the last few weekends the pace was really good in quali in Zandvoort and Monza, and this weekend I think that the pace was okay on Friday."
As for Antonio Giovinazzi, when reflecting on his performance in Sochi, the Italian remarked:
“It has been a difficult afternoon, especially when the rain started at the end of the race and I couldn’t talk to the pits about the tyre change. I’m pleased for the team’s result, but I’m already looking forward to Turkey.”
Turkey always seems to spring a few surprises but Antonio Giovinazzi would most likely settle for a normal Grand Prix rather than the ‘silent’ one he endured in Russia. One thing’s for sure, his next performance needs to give the media, the fans and most importantly his team a lot to talk about.