Frédéric Vasseur has revealed how close Antonio Giovinazzi was to losing his drive with Alfa Romeo Racing following his late crash in the Belgian Grand Prix whilst the Italian was running inside the points.
Giovinazzi had endured a tough first half of his first full season in Formula 1, with only one top ten finish in the first eleven races in Austria, although he lost another points finish in the German Grand Prix thanks to a post-race penalty.
In the first race after the summer break, Giovinazzi had driven strongly to be running inside the points at Spa-Francorchamps only to crash out on the penultimate lap, ending his chance of adding to his points tally.
Vasseur, the Team Principal at Alfa Romeo, says it was important that Giovinazzi responded to the crash in a positive manner, and he did that with impressive drives in both Italy and Singapore that yielded him top ten finishes, with the Italian also leading four laps at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
“It [the crash at Spa] was a big shock for everybody in the team because it was a good opportunity,” said Vasseur to Autosport. “Antonio came back from nowhere and on one of the last laps he had the crash.
“We had a tough discussion with Antonio, because these kind of things can decide your career. We were thinking about the future. We had to sit down the week after and we had to discuss about the situation, and he had a very good reaction.
“A lot of pressure, tons of guests, Alfa Romeo’s home race, he will have the press conference so plenty of questions about Spa. OK, so now it’s time to react. I think he did a very good job, the pressure was there.
“In Monza and Singapore he did well – it was good to have Antonio leading the race. It was a very good reaction.”
Everybody Focused on Results in Team-mate Battles – Vasseur
Not only did Giovinazzi do enough to keep his drive for 2019, he has since been given a second year with the team in 2020. Vasseur says the response to his crash in Spa gave him the confidence to keep the Italian as Kimi Räikkönen’s team-mate for a second consecutive year.
Räikkönen may have scored forty-three of Alfa Romeo’s fifty-seven points in 2019 but a much improved second half of the season for Giovinazzi, including a fifth-place finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix, ensured the Italian remains an Alfa Romeo driver for 2020.
“In my mind it was very important how Antonio reacted in Monza,” insisted Vasseur. “That was the real push. The issue for Antonio was we were down on performance when he was on top.
“You can be in front of your team-mates but [it is noticed less] if it’s for P14 or P15. If it’s sixth or seventh, everyone’s speaking about you.
“One thing is to show to the team and the other one is to score points because for you, for the paddock, everybody is just focused on results. It is difficult to have a proper analysis if you’re not involved in the day-by-day.
“Somehow you relieve a weight from the shoulders.”