Antonio Giovinazzi has been the man behind the Maranello simulator for two years; now, the Italian has earned his chance to prove himself and his talent on real tracks, on a real car, leaving his spot empty.
The soon to be Kimi Raikkonen’s team mate has worked alongside Daniil Kvyat during the 2018 season, but the Russian driver also earned another chance, again with Toro Rosso, where he will race alongside rookie Alex Albon.
Who is going to be, then, the one helping Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc during Formula 1 race weekends?
Well, the Prancing Horse team will have a four drivers line-up to stay behind the simulator wheel this season: Davide Rigon, 32, who is part of the team as a simulator driver since 2014, Antonio Fuoco, 22, Pascal Wehrlein, 24, and Brendon Hartley, 29.
Antonio Fuoco has been part of the Ferrari family for his entire career, while Pascal Wehrlein and Brendon Hartley started their career respectively under Mercedes and Red Bull’s wings.
Wehrlein was a shining star in the Mercedes program, alongside Esteban Ocon; after losing his Sauber seat in favor of Charles Leclerc, he spent his fifth consecutive year as the Silver Arrows’ development driver. He is currently spending the 2019 season in Formula E with the Mahindra team.
On the other side, Brendon Hartley nearly tasted the Formula 1 dream back in 2010 with the Red Bull family and then spent two years as Mercedes development driver during 2012 and 2013.
The big chance came for him last year, when he finally had the chance to step behind the wheel of a F1 car with Toro Rosso.
Last week, Hartley himself shared his side of the story on the official Formula 1 website, telling how his chances to stay in the circus could end from Montecarlo on.
“What I will remember most about it (the Montecarlo weekend) is walking down to the paddock to meet with the media on the Wednesday before the weekend started, and receiving a bunch of questions about my future.
“The worst part of that day, though, was finding out there was some truth to the rumours. After a few races, there were some people, it appeared, who didn't want me there. I’ll be honest, this was a bit of a shock. After entering F1 with a wealth of experience, two World Endurance championships, a win at Le Mans, and out qualifying my team mate two out of the first three races, it was hard to for me to believe that there was talk of my being replaced so early.
“That’s life in F1, though. The sport has so much money and so many people involved, it’s only natural that there are politics. If you’re a fan you know it, and if you’re a driver, you live it.”
Everybody knows what the hardest part is of being a driver: Antonio Giovinazzi knows it, who had two wait to years to become an official driver; Stoffel Vandoorne knows it, as well as Wehrlein, Vergne, Esteban Ocon. Talented drivers who lost the chance to be on the grid, but are still working to stay tied to the F1 dream.
Ferrari may not be the perfect team in terms of placing drives on the grid, but in ways it keeps drivers tied up to the Formula 1 world, which is a sport for a limited number of people and is, as it always happened, still using some criteria which go over the mere talent.