In the latest shake-up of the Formula One racing world, the Alfa Romeo Sauber Team will have a complete change for 2019, with Ferrari ace Kimi Räikkönen and Italian star Antonio Giovinazzi in the cockpits.

They replace underperforming Swede Marcus Ericsson and Monagasque talent Charles Leclerc, who will move to Ferrari.

Ericsson, however, will not totally disappear from the team.

He will fill the role of “third driver” and brand ambassador.

“I’m thankful for the years spent in Formula One as a racing driver,” Ericsson said.

“I am proud to have represented Sauber over the past four years and this season also such an iconic brand as Alfa Romeo.

“I would have loved to continue racing but to have a driver as Kimi Räikkönen on board is a great opportunity for the team.

“I will continue to give my contribution to the team with dedication and support.”

The decision to elect 24-year-old Antonio Giovinazzi is significant in the scope of the project that this season saw the return of Alfa Romeo to the pinnacle of motorsports after a hiatus of more than 30 years.

Giovinazzi won the Euro Formula 3 title in 2015.

The coming together of Alfa Romeo and the Italian driver was natural, also considering the strong bond that has tied Giovinazzi to the brand from an early age, and is a source of national pride.

It’s been a while since an Italian driver has competed in Formula One and the last one to have won a grand prix was Giancarlo Fisichella, back in 2006.

Giovinazzi made his Formula One debut with Sauber at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, and also in the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix.

He also completed several tests and practice sessions for the team.

“I am delighted to be joining the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team,” he said.

“This is a dream come true, and it is a great pleasure to have the chance to race for this team.

“As an Italian, it is a huge honour for me.

“I am very motivated and cannot wait to start working towards achieving great results together.”

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team principal Frédéric Vasseur said the signing of Räikkönen would “contribute to the development of our car and will accelerate the progress of our team as a whole” and described Giovinazzi as a driver proven to have great potential.

“Our target is to continue progressing and fighting together for positions that count.”

He said he was pleased Marcus Ericsson would continue to be a part of the Sauber family.

“In 2018, the team has made important progress and Marcus has been an essential factor in our development.”

Ericsson had a monumental crash in practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza when his car’s DRS malfunctioned on the approach to a corner at close on 300km/h.

The car rolled numerous times, but Ericsson escaped unhurt and went on to compete in the rebuilt car the next day.  

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.