Alfa Romeo is open to completely changing its Formula 1 driver line-up but Antonio Giovinazzi is “on the top of the list” for a seat in 2022.
Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen have been team-mates at Alfa Romeo since the Sauber-run team’s full rebranding in 2019.
Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 world champion, joined the team after losing his Ferrari drive on a two-year contract that included an option for 2021, which the Finn activated.
Ferrari protege Giovinazzi’s place was secured for this year because of Alfa’s ongoing involvement and he has validated that support with a quietly impressive campaign while Raikkonen has struggled, particularly in qualifying.
There are suggestions Raikkonen will finally retire after this year and end his record-breaking F1 career, while Giovinazzi’s improved season means he is tipped to stay on as F1 enters a new era of car in 2022.
However, Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur says a current driver would not be retained just for the sake of internal continuity.
“It could be a point, but it’s not necessary,” he said.
“You can say that it’s always good to have a kind of continuity into the team because at least you have a reference and you can compare with the feeling of the previous year and blah blah, blah.
“Let’s see. We’ll do the choice when it will be the right time to do it. We could keep the same line-up or we could change. Everything is open.
“And I think it’s also quite comfortable for the team to have everything open. It’s good for Antonio and good for Kimi.
“I don’t have the feeling that to be under pressure is fundamentally bad. We need the pressure to perform. And I don’t want to be in an easy world.”
Raikkonen does not currently have a contractual option to continue for 2022 so Vasseur said his situation is an “open discussion”.
As for Giovinazzi, Vasseur said: “He is on the list for sure, he is part of the family, he is improving. And he will be on the top of the list for next year.
“Now I want to see more improvement, more results in the race.
“Everybody’s under pressure. I am under pressure, the engineers are under pressure, the drivers they have to be under pressure. It’s a world of pressure.”
Haas rookie Mick Schumacher, Alfa Romeo reserve and Ferrari protege Callum Ilott, and Formula 2 frontrunner Robert Shwartzman have all been linked to a 2022 Alfa Romeo drive, while a more experienced driver like Valtteri Bottas could become a free agent if he is dropped by Mercedes.
Ferrari’s influence over its customer team has included having a say on one of the seats, although the Alfa affiliation is considered the main reason Giovinazzi was retained for 2021.
It has been claimed that Ferrari no longer has control over one seat but it is also clear that Alfa Romeo is happy to pick from the Ferrari driver pool – which could include Schumacher, who the team was linked with last year before he was placed at Haas.
“I will do as I did in the past,” said Vasseur. “I think it’s good for us to keep everybody under pressure. And we will see how the market is evolving.
“The system will fill the places at the top. It means that Mercedes has to take a decision and then Red Bull has to take a decision and like a domino, at one stage we will have some opportunities on the table and we’ll take a decision at this stage.”