Alfa Romeo Racing’s 2021 Driver Lineup

At the time of writing it is still not yet known whether Sebastian Vettel will move to Racing Point for 2021 (to be rebranded Aston Martin) and who exactly he will be replacing at the Silverstone based team.

However as many wait to see what the eventual 2021 lineup at Racing Point will be there is, personally, a more interesting driver lineup that is yet to be decided, that of Alfa Romeo Racing’s.

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The team currently have Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi driving for them in 2020 but neither driver is certain of a seat for next season. Added to this is that one of the seats is influenced by Ferrari who have placed Charles Leclerc (in 2018) before then placing Giovinazzi in the team (2019 and 2020).

Raikkonen is coming to the end of a two year deal and the question is whether he will stay on or retire. There are also questions surrounding Giovinazzi who failed to impress during 2019 and has a difficult task of doing so in 2020 due in part to the current competitiveness of the Alfa Romeo.

What makes the team an interesting player in the driver market is the Ferrari controlled seat within the team and the five drivers (Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott, Robert Shwartzman, Marcus Armstrong and Guiliano Alesi) in FIA Formula 2 who are part of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) and how they are currently performing in the 2020 Formula 2 season.

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If Ferrari does decide to replace Giovinazzi with one of the five FDA drivers most will probably be expecting the seat to be filled by Mick Schumacher, considering the history his surname has with Ferrari and to a certain extent Sauber, as his father Michael Schumacher competed with Sauber in sportscars before then going on to rewrite the history books with Ferrari in Formula 1 from 1996 to 2006.

It isn’t guaranteed that Schumacher would be the one to take the Ferrari controlled seat. Both Ilott and Shwartzman have impressed in Formula 2 so far in 2020 with the former in his second season in the series while the latter is making his debut.

Ilott is currently second in the championship going into the British Grand Prix weekend having won the opening feature race of the season and building on this with a further four consecutive points finishes which includes another podium in the Hungarian Grand Prix sprint race.

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It however feels that Shwartzman is almost forcing Alfa Romeo into having to pick him for 2021 as the Russian’s approach to his rookie Formula 2 season has seen him take the lead in the championship with two race victories to go with a third place finish in the Austrian Grand Prix feature race and two fourth place finishes.

Currently it feels that Shwartzman, Ilott and Schumacher are the main FDA drivers in contention for a Formula 1 race seat for 2021 as the three drivers are currently inside the top five in the Formula 2 championship.

This however doesn’t mean that the other two of Armstrong and Alesi should be considered out of the running. Armstrong is sixth in the championship having finished on the podium twice already in what is his rookie season. Alesi is in the weakest position with only one points finish so far, leaving him fourteenth in the championship, in what is his second season in Formula 2.

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There are, at the time of writing, still fourteen races yet to be contested leaving plenty of time for Shwartzman, Ilott and Schumacher to have a dip in form and Armstrong and Alesi to build momentum. All of which could have a big impact on who, if any, out of the five gets a Formula 1 seat with Alfa Romeo for 2021.

Although there is only one seat controlled by Ferrari the current situation at Alfa Romeo personally makes me feel that there is an opportunity for two FDA drivers to make up its 2021 lineup. Although admittedly this would be a risk with new technical regulations being introduced for the 2022 season and therefore the team needing at least one seat occupied by a driver with plenty of experience in the sport.

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Nevertheless there is also intrigue surrounding Raikkonen’s seat as if the Finn decides to retire it opens up the possibility of whichever driver that has been exiled from Racing Point finding refuge at Alfa Romeo. There is also the possibility that the team either recall Marcus Ericsson into a race seat, the Swede having driven for the team from 2015 to 2018 and been their test driver in 2019, pave the way for Nico Hulkenberg to return to the sport or replace the Finn with its 2020 test driver Robert Kubica.

Many are focusing on what will happen to Racing Point’s 2021 driver lineup but as shown above there is even more intrigue as to what happens at Alfa Romeo. From questions over the two current incumbents, five FDA drivers all with an opportunity to make their debut in Formula 1 with the team and other drivers either elsewhere on the Formula 1 grid or not on the 2020 Formula 1 grid who may be able to secure a seat with the team.

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