Alfa Romeo senses a “big opportunity” during the 2019 Formula 1 season, according to team principal Frederic Vasseur. 

The rebranded Sauber squad made impressive strides to move up to eighth spot in the 2018 constructors’ championship and heads into the new campaign with fresh optimism following a strong fortnight of pre-season testing. 

Following Charles Leclerc’s promotion to Ferrari and Marcus Ericsson’s departure to IndyCar, Alfa Romeo fields an all-new driver line-up consisting of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi

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“Our arrival in Melbourne symbolises the start of another big opportunity for our team after making excellent progress and showing our potential over the past year,” Vasseur said. 

“We are eager to have a positive start to the 2019 season. We have a great driver line-up and a strong backing from our team across all departments - at our factory as well as at the race track. 

“I look forward to seeing where we stand in these early stages and we will push hard to continue working our way up the ranks in the coming months.”

Raikkonen, who swapped seats with new Ferrari recruit Leclerc for 2019, believes it is impossible to predict the pecking order ahead of the season-opener. 

“There is always some uncertainty when you head to the first race of the season - you could even call it a mystery,” the Finn explained. 

“Anything is possible. The midfield is tight and we can’t predict where we stand at the moment. 

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the team has shown massive development last year and I am confident that we can have a strong start in Melbourne.”

The 2019 season will mark Giovinazzi’s first full-season in the sport having previously contested the opening two races of 2017 in Australia and China as stand-in for the injured Pascal Wehrlein

“I am enjoying every single moment of my first full Formula 1 season so far,” Giovinazzi added. 

“Testing was pretty good, but it is hard to predict where we will be on the grid. 

“I have had a busy winter and have trained a lot to prepare for my first season in the best possible way. Now I feel ready to race - I can’t wait to go to the start and see the red light switch to green.”

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