F1 teams 2021: Alfa Romeo

F1 teams 2021: Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo has improved in 2021, but not as much as I expected

Photo: Alfa Romeo F1

Car: Alfa Romeo C41
Engine: Type Ferrari 065
Technical Director: Jan Moncheaux
Team Leader: Frederic Vasseur
Drivers: Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica

Alfa Romeo entered the 2021 season ready to change performance, moving further up the grid. The C39 showed low production flaws and had to live with Ferrari’s weaker engine after a “deal” with the FIA.

For this year, the team has chosen to use one of the update packages allowed by the code. The group led by technical director Jan Moncheaux focused its efforts on the new front spoiler, which drew Mercedes, Ferrari and a split solution on the McLaren MCL33 of 2018. 2020 Ferrari rear suspension and gearbox set, but adopting a revised engine.

From the first tests, the goal seemed to have been achieved. The car seemed to be easy to drive and at a good pace. It was expected to see the Alfas effectively in the middle of the pack and gain more than 2020’s 8 points.

Diving into the cold data, Alfa Romeo has made the biggest gain of the year in qualifying speed. According to F1 itself, 2.9% behind the fastest in 2020, the Swiss/Italians were 1.9% behind. This represented the largest share of cars in Q2 for the entire year.

But this improvement in standing did not translate into visible results in scores. Well, the team got 13 points (almost twice the previous year) but dropped one place in the Builders Championship. The best result of the year was Raikkonen’s 8th place (Russia and Mexico). A few more points could be gained, but even with the cars moving closer to the field, the team insisted on very unusual strategies, but without success.

The driver pairing was the same as in 2020: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian was going into his third year with the team and the Finn would be his last year in the division. Both had a good performance. Giovinazzi got caught up in the team’s tactics and made a few mistakes, but he deserved better luck than scoring twice (Monaco and Saudi Arabia). His departure is somewhat unfair. It cannot be ignored that Ferrari gave him this position and still holds him dearly (so much so that he will be a team reserve for 2022). Sometimes, it would remain in the category.

Raikkonen was one of the highlights of the year. In his final year, Finn did not do well in qualifying, but he redeemed himself in the race and was very responsible for the team’s points. Due to COVID, he did not race in Holland and Italy (and was replaced by Robert Kubica). But he was well praised by the team.

Outside, Frederic Vasseur continued to command the team. Although still operating under budget constraints, the team made further investments in equipment and staff and hoped to see the efforts of recent years pay off. But the group of Swedish investors who are in front of the team still have faith in the Frenchman.

Yet in this aspect, the team attracted more attention than in the songs. The contract with Michael Andretti for the purchase of the team was considered easy around October and, according to the American himself, was canceled “at the last minute”. The renewal of the support contract with Alfa Romeo, which was in question due to the PSA/FCA merger, was guaranteed until at least 2024, with an “annual review”. And a big change came at the end of the year with the departure of Sauber’s president, Andrea Picci.

This departure was prompted by a disagreement on instructions with Vasseur. The last test was the choice of the Chinese Guanyu Zhou for the title in 2022. Picci supported the continuation of Giovinazzi, but the Chinese bring a large sponsorship (estimated at 30 million US dollars) and it means an effective entry into the crowded domestic market. To join, Valtteri Bottas came, this time with the opportunity to be the commander of the group.

Alfa Romeo/Sauber’s ambition for 2022 is to make a great level of quality and move forward. Like others, he is waiting for a change in the rules to be able to enter the “best of the rest” battle. That’s what everyone is hoping for, including Frederic Vasseur, who may start to be heavily questioned in his position, which hasn’t happened since 2017.