Antonio Giovinazzi went into qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix after only running eighteen laps during final practice and put in a great performance, only just missing out on advancing to Q2.
Giovinazzi is making his Grand Prix debut this weekend at Albert Park after jumping into the Sauber F1 Team C36-Ferrari on Saturday in place of Pascal Wehrlein, who withdrew overnight due to fitness concerns, and the Italian was just 0.183 seconds down on team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
The 2016 GP2 Series runner-up is the first Italian since Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2011 to race in Formula 1, and he admitted he was happy with his performance on a ‘special day’ for the twenty-three-year-old, especially after so little time to learn the track.
“That is a special day for me kicking off my first Formula One Grand Prix weekend,” said Giovinazzi. “I am really happy with my performance today, I was just a few tenths away from Q2.
“It will be a long race tomorrow; a lot can happen here in Melbourne. I will do my best to put in my maximum performance.”
Ericsson managed to make it through to Q2 but will start fifteenth after failing to improve his time in the second session, but the Swede felt it was a positive start to the season for the team.
“It was a decent first qualifying for us,” said Ericsson. “Throughout the weekend we have worked hard to maximize our current package.
“I managed to set a good lap in Q1, which was enough to put us in Q2. The second qualifying session started off well, but then I went a bit wide in turn 9, so I lost some lap time there. P15 is a decent position for starting the first Grand Prix of the 2017 season.”