Sauber substitute Antonio Giovinazzi has put his qualifying-ending crash at the Chinese Grand Prix down to inexperience and a lack of testing ahead of his second Formula One race.
The 23-year-old Italian impressed in his unexpected first F1 outing in Melbourne, but in China Giovinazzi’s continuing cameo was undone by lack of seat time.
Giovinazzi was about to set a time amongst the final flurry of hot laps, his Sauber then on the bubble of a Q1 elimination, but he let his car drift marginally wide on the exit of the final turn, causing it lose traction and snap towards the barriers on the opposite end of the circuit.
The rookie was attempting to fend off late charges from Stoffel Vandoorne, Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, and Romain Grosjean, but his crash ended all their laps prematurely.
“I think we had a good pace,” Giovinazzi said. “I was already P15 and I was improving my lap time in the end.
“But then I did a mistake — I just touched with my rear tyres the grass. Maybe it was still wet from yesterday, so I just lost the rear.
“It was tough. I’m of course disappointed. I want to say sorry to the team for this crash, but tomorrow is another day.
“I have just not much experience, so this can happen. It’s important tomorrow that we will be back and we can show a good result in the race.”
Life has been made difficult for Giovinazzi in his whirlwind debut. In Australia he wasn’t called up to replace Wehrlein until Saturday morning, mere hours before final practice and qualifying, and though he was given more notice in China, bot free practice sessions on Friday were effectively cancelled, leaving him in essentially the same situation.
Giovinazzi had raced in neither Melbourne nor Shanghai before this season, making the lack of practice a particular challenge.
“A lot of disappointment … I had just one hour, so everything was again really fast,” he said. “It was, to be honest, the same for everyone, because everyone started from FP3, but to have of course FP1 and FP2 would be good.
“But it is what it is. I did a mistake, so I hope from this mistake it will never happen again.”
Coupled with Giovinazzi’s lack of track experience is the team’s lack of practice knowledge given the weekend’s four-hour practice programme had to be condensed into a single hour on Saturday morning.
The effect is that the race could become something akin to a lottery in the strategy stakes, with little information about tyre performance known.
“We had such a short time in FP3, so, to be honest, we don’t know much about the degradation. It will be quite tough tomorrow if it’s dry as well.
“In the wet conditions, wet would be quite a strange race, so it would be good to start and see what we can do until then.
“It looks like it’ll be wet tomorrow, and nobody has much experience with these tyres, so it will be quite exciting to see where we are and what we can do.”
The Italian has kept his feet on the ground throughout his debut, and his positive attitude persisted past the crash for tomorrow’s grand prix.
“For now I need to focus for tomorrow’s race. We need to check with my engineer the best strategy, the best set-up for the car tomorrow.
“It’s important tomorrow to not make a mistake and to finish the race. We’ll see if the pace is good. I hope we can have a good race as well.”