Antonio Giovinazzi departed the Formula One grid at the end of the 2021 season and, despite keeping a role as a reserve driver with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas this year, his primary focus is elsewhere for now.
It has been a tricky adjustment and learning curve for Giovinazzi though, with his team Dragon-Penske yet to score a point through 12 rounds of racing, ahead of the final double-header weekends of the season in England and then Seoul, South Korea.
While each racing discipline has its own regulations, driving styles and manoueverability to get to grips with, the influence of the EV software and prioritisation for battery regeneration makes Formula E an entirely different beast, which the 28-year-old has found entirely alien to anything he has experienced previously.
“Unfortunately it’s a completely different car and format. Everything is different, from what I learned in the past in different categories and F1, nothing works here!” he explained.
“How you need to brake, the mentality in the race to not push and [the] need to save energy, recharge the battery...it’s completely different. That was one of the things that made me want to come here to be honest, to learn new things, because in my career I drove so many cars and the only one missing was Formula E.
“[But it’s] another world, for a rookie it’s not the best championship because you don’t have much time in the car: a session of 30 minutes, a new track, one day sometimes. It’s difficult to put it all together.
“Berlin is two different tracks in two days - not tough tracks, but you have to learn them and we were not really fast there.”
Building on that theme of a comfort zone, Giovinazzi freely acknowledges that his better performances, in free practice, qualifying and racedays, have come on those circuits he already knows. Monaco and Marrakesh he has experience of, which allows more focus on the timing of braking and the driving technique.
With so little time in the car on each circuit before the race, he points out he doesn’t want to push the car sometimes to ensure he avoids a crash, which would lower his preparation time even further.
Whether his time in FE is a one-season stay is yet to be determined, with Giovinazzi keeping his options open for now regarding 2023.
The focus is on an improved end to this term, following a pair of races in New York City in which he failed to finish either one - bringing his DNF total to five for the campaign. With teammate Sergio Sette Camara also failing to finish Saturday’s race, before a more respectable 17th on the Sunday, it was another disappointing all-round outing for the American team.
An F1 return isn’t on the cards right now - not to the grid, at least - so Giovinazzi is waiting to see what offers arise, and a second season in FE isn’t entirely ruled out, with the Italian praising the level of his rivals and the unique atmosphere and environment around the races.
“We’ll see. Never say never, I don’t know what I’ll do next year but I hope I’ll find out quite soon.
“For now I’ll focus on the next few races, the championship is almost over, then we’ll see what I do.
“I have no news for now, when I close the season here I’ll think about myself and what I like, and try to have the best choice for next year.
“The main things I like of this championship is the pre-race and the street track. You can never race in other categories in New York, Rome, London - for sure it’s really good for the championship. The other [off-track] side is more calm, less stress compared to F1 I would say. It’s a lot of difference.
“Next month is the last Formula E race and the second part of the season I’ll focus more on the F1 sim and what I’ll do for next year.”
Whether 2022 will therefore turn out to be a fleeting experience or a year of adaptation is yet to be determined, but at least there is some comfort and perhaps cause for cautious optimism. His last completed race in F1 saw Giovinazzi put points on the board for Alfa Romeo in the penultimate round of last year, in the Asian nation of Saudi Arabia.
If he can manage the same this time around in another high-profile Asian location, it will put a positive note to his time in perhaps the fastest-growing and one of the most challenging championships on the circuit.
The 2022 London E-Prix will be broadcast live on terrestrial television on Channel 4 on July 30 & 31. Buy tickets and follow all updates from the race at ExCeL London here.
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