Marténe (as the locals call it; otherwise known as Martina Franca), is a small town that lays on the slopes of the Apulian Murgia in southern Italy. It’s from this Apulian locale that Antonio Giovinazzi, the new, 24-year-old Sauber Alfa Romeo driver, hails.
Giovinazzi is the first Italian driver in eight years, the first since Jarno Trulli left the world’s leading wheeled championship, and he arrives at Sauber as the last piece of a puzzle played by Ferrari.
In a card game in which you exit the door and come back via the window, Kimi Raikkonen goes to Sauber instead of the promoted Monegasque Charles Leclerc. Leclerc is another product of the Ferrari Driver Academy at Cavallino, and is now destined for the most important seat of modern Formula 1.
A huge gap to fill
Meanwhile, the arrival of Giovinazzi at Sauber has filled a gap of almost a decade. It was a gap that was heavily noticed, especially in a sport where the presence of the Italian tricolor has always been strong and central.
The Pugliese driver is now preparing for his first official experience with Sauber, after snatching a second place in the 2016 GP2 behind Pierre Gasly, and experiencing a couple of years on the bench between Ferrari and his new team.
His only two exits in an F1 Grand Prix, one of which came after replacing injured Sauber teammate Wehrlein in 2017, were bittersweet. An excellent 12th place in the inaugural Melbourne race followed a disastrous Chinese Grand Prix.
Hello again, F1
Now Antonio Giovinazzi must show that he can be in the elite not only just of motor racing, but of sport in general. Arriving at Sauber with the experience of those who have swallowed a bitter pill in the past, and having been away from the spotlight for a long time, he also comes with the cumbersome context of still being a Ferrari driver and not being especially young in F1 terms.
What happens now is up to Giovinazzi himself. What is certain, though, is that all the Italian motorsport fans will cheer for the boy from Martina Franca. He’s one of ours, and God knows how much we need him.