Alfa Romeo have announced that Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi will continue to race for the team in 2021 Formula One season.
This announcement means that Raikkonen and Giovinazzi will race alongside each other at Alfa Romeo for a third consecutive season, despite having scored a combined five points between them this season.
Speaking on his decision to remain in F1 for a tenth consecutive season and 19th season overall following a two season absence between 2010-11 before returning in 2012, Raikkonen spoke of the unity within the team, saying; “Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN is more than a team to me, it is like a second family.”
Raikkonen also acknowledged the “unique atmosphere” of Alfa Romeo as providing him with “that extra motivation…” to stay and continue to believe that he can help achieve the team’s long-term project, which suits his style of “hard work over words…”
Giovinazzi meanwhile will be entering his third full season in F1 next season after making two replacement appearances for the team under its old Sauber name in 2017, with the Italian “happy” to be continuing the partnership for at least one further season.
Despite results not being as positive as many expected, Giovinazzi acknowledged the faith that Alfa Romeo has shown in renewing his contract, saying; “The team has put a lot of faith in me and I have done my best to repay this confidence with hard work and commitment: we have achieved some good results and I feel I have done my part to make the team progress, but the road ahead is still long and there is much more we want to achieve together.”
Giovinazzi also noted that there is set to “… be a lot of continuity between this season and the next one, so everything we work on between now and the end of the year will already count for next,” with the 2016 GP2 Vice-Champion feeling that the team is “ready to give it all we have.”
Alfa Romeo Team Principal, Frederic Vasseur is “pleased” to have retained both Raikkonen and Giovinazzi for 2021 despite rumours of Mick Schumacher partnering Raikkonen circulating throughout this summer and early autumn.
On Raikkonen’s performance, Vasseur was in high praise of the 2007 champion who he feels “can be trusted to deliver 100% of what the car can produce…”, saying; “his talent has been clear to everyone since 2001 and I still see the passion and motivation in him every time I see him at work.”
Vasseur also noted that Giovinazzi has continued to improve throughout this season after finishing 2019 strongly with particular focus on his qualities, as the ex Renault boss said; “His work ethic, commitment to the team and contagious enthusiasm are a huge asset for Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN.”
Confirmation of Alfa Romeo’s driver lineup comes just 24 hours after the team renewed its partnership with Sauber Motorsport for another season.
What Does This Mean for Ferrari’s Young Drivers?
Confirmation of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi’s extended stay at Alfa Romeo means that there is now realistically just one seat left for a leading Ferrari junior within a Ferrari powered team which is at Haas, with Schumacher likely to claim the seat given that he is set to claim the Formula Two (F2) title this season.
2019 Formula Three champion, Robert Shwartzman meanwhile is also thought to be a candidate after enjoying a strong F2 campaign after claiming three victories plus brings strong backing in SMP Racing amongst various sponsors, although he is widely expected to remain in F2 next season.
Another contender for the Haas seat could be Great Britain’s Callum Ilott who was set to drive in FP1 for Haas at the Nurburgring before Friday Practice was washed out to prevent Ilott from making any impression, other than on the atmosphere within the garage despite Haas Team Principal, Guenther Steiner claiming that Ilott isn’t amongst candidates for a race seat next season.
Either way, I suspect that Ferrari could well be waiting for the F2 title to be settled between Schumacher and Ilott before confirming the German at Haas next season due to his better overall consistency than the Brit, although if Ilott can overturn a 22 point deficit in the final two rounds in Bahrain to claim the title then Ferrari and Haas might well have something to think about as to who to put in the Haas car for 2021.