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Giovinazzi: F1 to GTE-Pro “A Big Jump”

Antonio Giovinazzi drawing on teammates’ experience for Le Mans, GT racing debut…

Photo: Ferrari

Ferrari Formula 1 reserve Antonio Giovinazzi says that the transition from single-seater to GT machinery for the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been “a big jump”.

The Italian is preparing for his debut at the French enduro, co-driving the No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo with Toni Vilander and Pipo Derani.

Giovinazzi is one of seven drivers with F1 race experience contesting Le Mans for the first time this month, along with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Felipe Nasr, Paul Di Resta, Juan Pablo Montoya and Pastor Maldonado.

“I did not have many laps with the car, but I really enjoyed my first time here at Le Mans,” Giovinazzi told Sportscar365 at last weekend’s Test Day.

“It is different from F1 – a lot of traffic and not a lot of grip because the track was still really dirty, and it was really hot inside the car. But they were good first laps. I’m looking forward to the race.

“The speed is less but it’s still a big challenge. From F1 to GT is a big jump and I need to adapt to this car, but I want to get a good result for Le Mans. It’s a different car, but it’s a racing car, so I still enjoy it.”

Giovinazzi, who set the car’s fastest lap at the Test Day, has been preparing thoroughly for his debut, which he has identified as one of the highlights of his career so far.

The 24-year-old’s only previous sports car outings have come behind the wheel of LMP2 machinery, in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Asian Le Mans, and European Le Mans Series, but he has yet to compete in a 24-hour event.

His preparations have been aided by the presence of factory stalwart Vilander, who is gearing up for his tenth Le Mans appearance.

“I did a few runs in the simulator at Ferrari and I’ve also been watching some onboards from previous years,” said Giovinazzi.

“Now, it’s all about my preparation. I will check back my data this week and see where I can improve for the race.

“It’s a big challenge for me, but I will work with Toni and will see if he has some tricks to make my life easier. I try to take a lot of feedback on data from him, and also Pipo as well – it’s his fourth time here.

“We have an experienced team – it’s just me coming in for the first time – but with these two teammates I think I can do a really good job. With them, I will be able to learn as much as I can, and be really fast.

F1 Remains the Target

Giovinazzi says he is still aiming to race in F1 full-time, despite missing out on a seat for the 2018 season, but has not ruled out further GT activities with Ferrari in the future.

The 2016 GP2 (now Formula 2) runner-up was in line for a permanent role at Sauber, having filled in at the team for two grands prix last year, but lost out to fellow Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc.

However, his continued association with the Scuderia means he is still committed to the single-seater trail and has not established any immediate plans to turn his Le Mans drive into a long-term sports car arrangement.

“My focus is still on F1, trying to go there,” Giovinazzi confirmed.

“But in the future, you never know. You see that many of the drivers who finish in F1 go here [WEC] or to IndyCar.

“It’s one category that I can watch in the future. But I’m still young, so, for now, I am concentrating on F1.

“I saw a lot of Le Mans on TV when I was a child, with my dad, and to be with Ferrari and AF Corse is really great for me. I just want to focus on this race, and then in the future, we will see.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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