Scuderia Ferrari has announced that 2016 GP2 Series runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi will be their reserve driver in 2017, backing up Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
The Italian ran Pierre Gasly close to the GP2 title last season despite being a rookie, with Ferrari also handing him the opportunity to run in their simulator in September as they looked over the twenty-three-year-old.
As well as being their reserve, Giovinazzi is also going to be given simulator work to perform in 2017, and is likely to be first choice in any in-season testing when a young driver is required.
“We are not taking Giovinazzi to emulate the example of Max Verstappen, who is quite unique,” Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne was quoted as saying by La Gazetta dello Sport.
“We take him on board because he is a very good driver and Ferrari needs young talents that are ready to enter F1.”
Giovinazzi’s racing future in 2017 is still unclear, with a second season of GP2 distinctly possible after testing in the post-season tests at Abu Dhabi, although remaining with the Prema Racing squad that took him to second in the standings in 2016 will not be possible, with Ferrari Driver Academy racers Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco already confirmed.
The Sauber F1 Team, one of Ferrari’s customer teams, still have a seat available in 2017, while Jagonya Ayam, a long-time backer of Giovinazzi, have been linked with a takeover of the Manor Racing MRT outfit, which also could open a door to a race seat.