Alfa Romeo will retain Antonio Giovinazzi for the 2020 Formula 1 season, all but cosigning Nico Hulkenberg to a likely exit from the sport at the end of the year.

Giovinazzi was handed his F1 debut by Alfa under its original guise Sauber in 2017 when the Italian deputised for the injured Pascal Wehrlein.

After spending a season as Ferrari’s test and reserve driver last year, Giovinazzi was signed to race alongside 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen on Alfa Romeo’s return after 34 years away from F1.

Scoring his first career points in Austria, the 25-year-old has steadily improved his form, finishing a best of ninth at his home race at Monza and has out-qualified Raikkonen eight times over the campaign.

Although outgoing Renault driver Hulkenberg was linked with a return to the Swiss-based outfit, Alfa opted to hold on to Giovinazzi’s services for a second successive year.

“I am very happy to be staying with the team for 2020,” said Giovinazzi.

“I am grateful for the incredible level of support I received in my first full season in Formula One: everyone in the team has stuck by my side since I joined and I am really looking forward to continuing our journey together.

“We learned a lot this year and I am confident we can make a big step forward next season. I won’t be a rookie anymore so there won’t be any excuses for me: I want to be competitive right from the start of the championship and repay the confidence the team has shown in me.”

Team principal Frederic Vasseur added: “Antonio has done really well this year and I am extremely pleased to be able to confirm he will stay with Alfa Romeo Racing for 2020.

“The way he has integrated into the team and has consistently improved throughout his first full season in the sport are very promising and we cannot wait to unlock his full potential as we continue to work together.

“Antonio has emerged as a very quick driver, even alongside as tough a benchmark as Kimi, and we expect him to develop even further as his experience grows.

“His technical feedback, work ethics and positive approach will help us continue to push our team forward, and so will the consistency of an unchanged line-up for next season.”