Formula One heads to Italy this weekend, the home of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Scuderia Ferrari and F1 champions Giuseppe Farina and Alberto Ascari.
Formula One hasn’t seen an Italian compete in the series since 2011 when Jarno Truilli raced with Caterham and Vitantonio Liuzzi raced with HRT.
Heading into this weekend’s Grand Prix though I believe Formula One isn’t far from seeing another Italian compete in the sport as there are a few making an impression in lower formula.
This year Antonio Giovinazzi is making his debut in the GP2 Series with Prema Racing having come from the Formula 3 European Championship.
He is currently placing in second in the GP2 standings having won three races so far. The most recent of which was the sprint race at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
He has also competed in the European Le Mans Series with SMP Racing where he finished fifth alongside fellow GP2 drivers Mitch Evans and Sean Gelael at the season opening race at Silverstone.
Last season he competed in the F3 European Championship where he finished second, claiming six victories and a further fourteen podium finishes.
Although it would be very surprising to see Giovinazzi in Formula One next season I believe a few more seasons in GP2 and potentially becoming a GP2 champion, which I believe he has the ability to do, could see Giovinazzi entering F1 in a few seasons.
Another Italian currently competing in GP2 is Raffaele Marciello who made his debut in the series in 2014 having won the FIA F3 European Championship the previous season.
Since his arrival in GP2, Marciello has only won one GP2 race, in 2014 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
He was part of the Ferrari Driver Academy until the end of 2015 when he was dropped.
He was also for a time the Sauber test and reserve driver from late 2014 before eventually leaving the role in early 2016.
Raffaele has however rebuilt his reputation this season as he currently lies third in the standings, despite not yet winning a race in 2016. I feel it is also important to note that he has improved year by year in GP2, finishing eighth in 2014 with seventy four points, finishing seventh in 2015 with a hundred and ten points and is currently place third with a hundred and two points.
It may be difficult for Marciello to get a full time drive in Formula One now that he no longer has the backing of the Ferrari Driver Academy and more and newer talent grab the attention of the Formula One teams. But he certainly shouldn’t be cast aside as he is still within a chance of claiming the GP2 title this season, all he needs to improve his chances is a very high scoring weekend, starting at his home Grand Prix of Italy perhaps.
Another making his debut in GP2 this season is Luca Ghiotto who has graduated from the GP3 series.
He is currently in the top ten of the standings having claimed three podium finishes so far this season with Trident, the team he competed with in GP3 last season.
In that 2015 season with Trident he battled for the GP3 title with current F1 driver, Esteban Ocon, but unfortunately missed out despite winning five races during the season.
Ghiotto has also competed in what is now called the Formula V8 3.5 series. He competed in the series in 2014 where he claimed three points finishes, including a fourth place finish before switching to GP3.
I don’t believe he would be ready for a Formula One seat yet and would prefer to see him have a strong finish to his 2016 GP2 season before attempting to build on it further in 2017. But I believe he should, like Antonio Giovinazzi, be followed closely in the coming seasons.
Antonio Fuoco is currently in his second season in GP3 and is one of three challenging for the title this season.
He is also currently part of the Ferrari Driver Academy having joined in 2013. The following season he made his debut in the FIA F3 European Championship where he finished fifth overall, claiming two race victories and a further eight podium finishes.
He was then moved into the GP3 series in 2015 with the Carlin team.
Once again, I wouldn’t expect him to appear in a full time Formula One drive soon, but I feel he is certainly talented enough to be considered for a drive in a few seasons time. He is helped as well by having the backing of Ferrari.
The last potential Italian F1 driver of the future I wish to feature is that of Alessio Lorandi. He is currently in his second season in the F3 European Championship having made his debut in 2015. He claimed twenty six points to finish twentieth out of a total forty two plus drivers during the season.
He has remained in the series where he is currently in eleventh in the standings with ninety six points having also claimed victory in race three of the Pau Grand Prix as well as a further podium finish at Zandvoort in the Netherlands.
It will be interesting to see where Alessio Lorandi is in a few seasons time where hopefully he will be considered as another talented Italian driver worthy of a place in Formula One.
These are just a few of no doubt many talented Italian drivers currently competing in lower formula. I doubt we will see any of them on the F1 grid in 2017 but I strongly believe that any of the Italians mentioned above could be in contention for seats on the F1 grid in two or three seasons.
It would be brilliant to see any of them make their way into a full time drive, and with a country that has a rich motorsport history I believe F1 needs to have an Italian racing in the sport in the near future.