Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn says the team was “very surprised” with the quality of last-minute debutant Antonio Giovinazzi’s performance in the Australian Grand Prix.
The Italian driver was drafted in by Sauber on Saturday morning after Pascal Wehrlein reported fitness concerns following Friday’s practice sessions.
Ferrari third driver Giovinazzi, who stood in for Wehrlein at Sauber for the first Barcelona test, qualified 16th and finished his first F1 race in 12th.
Kaltenborn said Sauber did not set Giovinazzi expectations beyond ensuring he “did not to make mistakes and hung in during the race”.
“It definitely surprised us because it’s his first race,” she told Motorsport.com.
“Yes, he’s been testing, done things like the Pirelli test [for Ferrari], but that’s not the kind of testing that other people have been doing. It’s not like this level of motorsport, so it was very impressive.
He’s had one free practice, one hour, and did a very good qualifying and the race was not an easy one because he had flat-spotted his tyres and the car was not easy to drive.
“He showed the potential the car has despite all these difficulties.”
Wehrlein’s withdrawal raised the issue that Sauber does not have an official reserve driver.
Kaltenborn said Giovinazzi would effectively hold that role, because the team has “an arrangement with Ferrari which allows us to react in that situation”.
“This is fine for us,” she said. “Our focus is rather now that Pascal is fit, that our regular driver comes in.
“We have covered ourselves with the third driver situation and there is nothing else we need to do now.”