Since Jarno Trulli departed Formula One at the end of 2011, there hasn’t been an Italian driver in the sport, which is a big disappointment. Twenty years ago in 1993 a total of ten Italians raced at some point during the year, but ever since the numbers have been dwindling. There have been moments when Italian drivers were making inroads on the junior classes, however most of these came to abrupt endings, and leaves 2013 without a single driver from Italy on the F1 grid.
Last year, Davide Valsecchi made a very big impact on the world of the GP2 series, winning the championship for the DAMS team. However a Formula One race seat failed to materialise, and he was left to pick up the pieces and sign for the Lotus team as their third & reserve driver, a role that does not involve much driving. In fact the only bit of driving Valsecchi has done so far is one morning of pre-season testing when Kimi Raikkonen was ill.
With Valsecchi not racing this year, the spotlight is falling on Kevin Ceccon. The 19-year-old from Clusone in Italy currently sits 9th in the GP2 Series championship, having achieved his maiden podium finish in Monte Carlo earlier this year, driving for the Trident Racing team.
Ceccon made his single-seater debut in the European F3 Open Championship back in 2009 as a fifteen year old, and scored 34 points in finishing eleventh in the championship. He also contested some events in the Italian Formula Three Championship. 2010 he continued in both series, and won his first single-seater race in the European F3 Open Championship before finishing fourth in the standings.
2011 was certainly the Italians outstanding season so far, as he joined the Auto GP series. Driving for Ombra Racing, Ceccon won the championship with 130 points, beating highly-rated Luca Filippi by 3 points. The only disappointment I imagine Ceccon would have had about that year, was he only won once during the year. But F1 fans will remember that its certainly possible to win World Championships like that. Ceccon also made his GP2 debut in 2011 for the Scuderia Coloni team, replacing the injured Davide Rigon, but opted to concentrate on Auto GP after only 8 races.
2012 saw Ceccon drive for Ocean Racing Technology in the GP3 Series, but with not much success as the team struggled with finances. A single podium finish (in Monaco) saw him finish 9th in the championship with 56 points. He was the highest placed driver of the three within the team however, as neither Robert Cregan or Carmen Jorda troubled the points.
2013 saw him return to the GP2 series with Trident, and he scored his first series points in round 5 in Spain, and has scored in every race since, including his podium in Monaco. He has begun to imprfess in the bigger cars. He also has Formula One experience under his belt after running for Toro Rosso in the 2011 Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi.
So what’s the future for Kevin Ceccon? While winning the championship in GP2 is unlikely this year, he should hopefully keep his momentum going and challenge for more podiums and even a win. As he’s so young, another year in GP2 won’t hurt him as much as it would do if he was older, and he should be a championship favourite if he does return next year. F1 should then be on the horizon for the young man, and it would be fantastic for Italy to have an Italian back on the grid. The kid certainly has talent, his confidence will be increasing now he’s a regular points scorer, and if he can keep his momentum & confidence, then the sky’s the limit, and F1 should be his final destination. Only time will tell.