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Formula 1 needs an Italian driver: Here are the latest prospects

Formula 1 needs an Italian driver: Here are the latest prospects

24 November - 08:00 Last update: 09:24
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With the announcement of Nico Hulkenberg by Haas and Logan Sargeant by Williams all the places on the grid have been filled. Once again, however, there will be no Italian driver at the start of the new Formula 1 season. GPblog takes stock of the situation and looks at future prospects.

There is a lot of Italy but not among the drivers

In the calendar of the next Formula 1 season, there will be two races in Italy, Monza and Imola. In 2020 there was even a third, Mugello. This demonstrates Formula 1's great attention for Italy, also thanks to the huge pool of fans it brings.

Even in the list of teams, we find a lot of Italy, with no less than three Italian teams: Ferrari, AlphaTauri and (partially) Alfa Romeo. In addition, Ferrari also supplies engines to Haas. The Scuderia di Maranello, by the way, is one of the historical teams in Formula 1, one of the most supported and has been present since the first edition of the World Championship.

Despite these premises, the number of Italian drivers in Formula 1 will be zero, and it has been so again this year. Not that it was any better in previous years, with only Giovinazzi defending the Italian colours in 2017 and from 2019 to 2021. The last pole position by an Italian was in 2009, Fisichella at Spa, while the last victory dates back to 2006, again Fisichella in Malaysia, now 16 years ago.

Italian drivers in Formula 1

The aforementioned Giovinazzi is even the only Italian driver to have raced Grand Prix since 2012. Before him, the last was in 2011 by Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi, who however defended the colours of two second-rate teams, Team Lotus and HRT.

If we try to broaden the picture to include reserve drivers, we only find three other names besides Giovinazzi's lately. The first in chronological order is Luca Ghiotto, who tested for Williams in 2017, but then stayed in Formula 2, where he holds several records mainly due to the number of races he has competed in. At the age of 27, he is no longer a young prospect, and in the last year, he has mainly dedicated himself to racing classes outside the Formula series pyramid.

More recently, in 2021, the names of Antonio Fuoco and Davide Rigon, both Ferrari test drivers, appear. The former, class of '96, has not been a regular driver in a Formula since 2018 and raced in the World Endurance Championship in 2022. Rigon, on the other hand, is 10 years older and raced the last 24 Hours of Le Mans together with Fuoco.

In search of talent

Perhaps then there is some hidden gem in the categories immediately below Formula 1? If we look at Formula 2, however, the picture is just as bleak. In the season just ended only one Italian driver took to the track, and he did so on just one circuit. In fact, Luca Ghiotto, whom we mentioned earlier, took to the track for DAMS at Monza as a substitute, picking up a thirteenth place and a retirement.

Going one step down, in the Formula 3 World Championship, we find a few more names. Francesco Pizzi raced the entire season for Charouz, picking up a point at Imola, his team's only one during the season. Pizzi arrived in Formula 3 after only two years in Formula cars, in which he gave good performances, especially in the Italian F4. Alongside him in Charouz, Alessandro Famularo raced for just one Grand Prix. Born in 2003 in Venezuela but races with an Italian licence, and has so far won only one race in Formula 4.

In the same category, we also find Enzo Trulli, Jarno's son, who scored zero points with his Carlin, doing worse than both his teammates. Trulli is 17 years old and won a UAE Formula 4 championship in 2021, like Pizzi the year before. In Formula 3 we also find Federico Malvestiti, who is, however, 22 years old. He too has zero points with Jenzer, the worst of the three drivers of the Swiss team.

Looking at the European F3 Regional instead, which already sees a larger presence of Italians, there are two names that stand out, second and eighth in the final classification. The first is Gabriele Minì, 17, who races for ART and has as manager Nicolas Todt, Jean's son and also Leclerc's agent. Minì in 2020 was the youngest ever to win the Italian F4. The second is Leonardo Fornaroli, 18, who races for Trident instead.

A new hope

Moving down to Formula 4, however, we find what is perhaps the greatest hope for Italian motorsport: Andrea Kimi Antonelli. Sixteen years old, from Bologna, last season he won the Italian and German Formula 4 championships with Prema - in his first full season in the category, and next year he will race in Formula Regional again with the Prema team. Since 2018 he has also been part of the Mercedes academy.

Interviewed by GPBlog, Antonelli explains that the goal for next year is to try to win in the top category as well. "The goal is, as always, to try to win, but I think it is also important to learn, to gain even more experience and to learn even more, on and off the track," says Antonelli, who thus hopes to get ever closer to his dream - and that of many Italian fans - of making it to Formula 1. "Should I manage to get there, after that my goal would be to become a champion."

In Formula Regional, however, he will not find Minì, who will race in F3 in 2023. The two are perhaps the greatest Italian talents, and it is also the name Antonelli gives when asked who has impressed him most so far among his Italian colleagues. "I have raced against him in the past in go-karts, but we never really clashed, because as he is a year older it was difficult for us to meet. But I think he is also a very strong driver.

Antonelli also cannot explain why there is a lack of Italian drivers in the major series. "I honestly don't know why, I couldn't tell you. But this is certainly regrettable, because as I said before there is a lack of Italian drivers" The Prema driver hopes, however, that things can change in the future. "It would be nice to be the next Italian driver in Formula 1," he says. All Italian Formula 1 fans hope so too, hoping to see an Italian on the top step of the podium again, an emotion that has been missing since Antonelli's birth year, 2006.

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