Antonio Giovinazzi said he felt much calmer behind the wheel of the Sauber Formula 1 car during practice for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi knowing that he will be racing for the team next year.

Giovinazzi was named as Sauber’s second driver for the 2019 season earlier this week, partnering Kimi Raikkonen, and continued his preparation for his full debut F1 campaign by appearing in FP1 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Giovinazzi finished the session 10th-fastest for Sauber, three-tenths of a second ahead of FP1 teammate Charles Leclerc, who will race for Ferrari in F1 next year.

Speaking after the session in Sochi, Giovinazzi conceded that he entered the session feeling much calmer than in his previous F1 appearances as he did not need to treat it as an audition for a possible race seat.

“I can say I’m a lot more calm now. It’s my first session already with that news for next year,” Giovinazzi said.

“I went to the car really calm, and with the mentality to do the best job for the team and to learn the track, because for me, Sochi was a new track. Of course it was a different mentality.

“All the time [before] I came in the track, [it] was to prove something, to have my seat. This time I was just there and thinking about next year, doing the best job for the team to improve the car for next year.”

The session marked Giovinazzi’s first F1 outing with Sauber since appearing in the rookie test at the Hungaroing at the beginning of August following the Hungarian Grand Prix, and the Italian noted a big step in the performance of the team’s C37 car.

“I would say the car was a lot better just everywhere. It was the same jump I felt from the rookie test in Barcelona to Hungaroring, and I felt another jump here,” Giovinazzi said.

“Just the overall grip from the car. I was really happy for this.

“It was really good also to be in the top 10, my first top 10 in F1. After the signing, it was a good thing to celebrate.”