Alfa Romeo Formula 1 boss Frederic Vasseur has called on Antonio Giovinazzi to become more of a team leader in the Italian's third full season with the Swiss outfit.
Following a difficult debut season in 2019, two years after a two-race cameo for the team then known as Sauber subbing for the injured Pascal Wehrlein, Ferrari-backed Giovinazzi showed a marked improvement during the 2020 season in which he outqualified team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by nine to eight.
The 27-year-old also matched Raikkonen's points tally with four apiece, as Alfa's slump in competitiveness yielded only eighth in the 2020 constructors' championship, but Ferrari deemed that he had done enough to earn another season and placed Formula 2 champion Mick Schumacher at Haas for his rookie campaign instead.
As it's far from certain that 41-year-old Raikkonen will remain in F1 when his one-year contract extension concludes at the end of the season, Vasseur has called on Giovinazzi to step up and "take the lead on his own shoulders".
"I think the next step is to get more the consistency during the race," Vasseur told Autosport.
"But he's been doing a good step for a while that he is improving on every single topic.
"There's also probably to keep a little bit the lead of the team on his own shoulders, to be able to assume some decisions.
"But we are on these paths and he is improving race after race. And I'm quite confident for ."
Vasseur is also impressed with the gains the Italian has been able to make in his sophomore year.
"If you have a look [at 2019], he scored one third of Kimi's points and he was six times in front of Kimi in qualifying," he explained.
"Now they are matching each other, they have the same level of points, the same level of performance in qualifying."
Giovinazzi told Autosport that he was "really happy with the work that I did" in 2021, which included a particular focus on improving his race starts that helped him gain valuable positions on the first lap of several races.