Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
Following his Alfa Romeo departure in Formula 1, Antonio Giovinazzi made the immediate switch to the Dragon Penske team in Formula E. It was certainly a surprising move from the Italian due to Penske not being anywhere near the front, which is where you’d expect a driver of Gio’s calibre to be after three years of F1. Because of Antonio’s obvious ability, lots of people expected him to shine in Formula E like he used to in his junior days, but right from the off it became obvious that this wouldn't be the case.
Valencia Testing in December last year revealed that Formula E was going to be a struggle for Gio to adjust to. The Italian said he was “confused” after his first day of testing, and has blamed his struggles on the brakes of the cars. As we know, F1 are very high downforce machines where drivers are able to attack braking zones and the car will grip and slow down, whereas FE are much lower downforce in comparison. Because of this, Antonio has struggled to adapt to the braking on these cars as he’s used to the high downforce F1 cars he’s been driving for the past three seasons. If his initial struggles weren’t bad enough, the Italian missed out on a vital day of testing due to FE’s winter test clashing with the penultimate race of the F1 season in Jeddah which Antonio had to jet off to and miss the final day of FE testing for.
In his first round, Gio’s struggles were clear to see throughout. Having missed out on testing, the reduced practice session lengths gave Antonio even less time to acclimatise to the FE car he’d driven on the sim throughout winter. In qualifying, Gio’s struggles weren’t as bad as they had been, which could be because of the Penske’s decent ability over one lap. In both qualifying sessions that weekend, Gio was less than a tenth behind the car ahead in quali. Come the two races, however, Antonio’s lack of pace became very apparent. From lights to flag in both races, Gio was rooted to the bottom, not able to keep up with the pack, even finishing 26 seconds behind the car ahead in Race 1.
To be fair to Antonio, a rookie struggling on debut is nothing new in Formula E. Formula E cars are like no other cars in motorsport, as he pointed out himself, so drivers always struggle to get the best results in their first race. Compared to the two other rookies debuting in Diriyah, his pace was much worse than most rookies. Oliver Askew, driving for Andretti, made up several positions in the race, finishing in the points on debut; an incredible performance from a rookie. Dan Ticktum, another rookie in a similarly poor car to Gio, was able to match his veteran teammate throughout the weekend, and beat him in Race 1. As for Giovinazzi’s teammate, ex-F2 driver Sergio Sette Camara, the Brazilian finished 15th and 17th in the two races, which shows the pace that the Penske has, it's just that Gio is yet to unleash that pace.
We’ve just exited the fifth round of the season and the Italian is yet to finish any higher than last, and has a best qualifying result of 19th. Antonio’s performances are very poor and don’t seem to be getting much better as we go deeper and deeper into the season. Even in his home race, Gio wasn’t able to perform in front of his adoring crowd and finished dead last in Race 1, and retired due to a technical issue in Race 2. The next race in FE is in Monaco, so let’s hope that Gio can finally get a decent result at a track he’s been driving at for years. As we know, though, braking is vital at a tight street circuit like Monaco, so that may hinder Gio’s chances, but we can hope nonetheless.