Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Alfa Romeo’s “big step forward” not reflected in points yet – Vasseur

2021 F1 season

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Bad luck has prevented Alfa Romeo from reaping the dividends of the “big step forward” it has made with its car this year, says team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Kimi Raikkonen scored his first point of the season with 10th place in Azerbaijan last weekend. The team’s only other points score this season came at the previous race in Monaco, where Antonio Giovinazzi also finished 10th.

The team lies eighth in the championship, 23 points behind the nearest rival ahead. But Vasseur believes “looking at the standings doesn’t really say the full story as I think our performance has been a lot more positive than the total amount of points collected so far says.”

“As a team, we have made a really big step forward from last season to this,” said Vasseur, “perhaps the biggest among all teams on the grid.

“The data speaks for itself – just looking at qualifying, the average gap we have from pole position went down by more or less a percentage point, while in the race we have made also significant progress, above half a percentage point.

“In such a close grid, that’s a big jump forward and I think we’re not done yet delivering the full potential of our package.”

Alfa Romeo’s power unit supplier Ferrari is believed to have made significant gains with its new engine for 2021, but Vasseur says Alfa Romeo’s chassis has also contributed.

“The whole entirety of the C41 is working better than its predecessor and it would be unfair to point to a single element to give credit for the progression we have made,” he said. “The power unit has made a big step forward, of course, but we have improved every aspect of our car and the result is visible on track.”

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Vasseur said the team’s superior qualifying performances compared to last year demonstrate its progress. “We had only eight Q2 appearances in 2020, including when we put two cars in Q3 in the rain in Turkey.” he said.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Giovinazzi suffered pit stop problems in Bahrain and Spain
“Now after six races, we have already cleared Q1 eight times out of 12 possible, and we have a Q3 on pure merit – in the dry, in Monaco. Last weekend, in Baku, we had the strongest pace we’ve had on Saturday all season, even though the final positions on the grid didn’t reflect it.”

A mixture of team errors plus misfortune and debatable officiating decisions explain why Alfa Romeo has only scored two points so far, Vasseur believes.

“There have obviously also been some specific instances in which we could and should have done better – an issue with Antonio’s [pit] stop in Bahrain, when he was running in the points; Kimi’s crash in Portugal.

“But in many cases, it’s been something outside our control – Antonio’s race in Spain was ruined when the FIA marshalling system mistakenly prevented him from catching up with the pack, or when we lost two points we had scored with Kimi in Imola due to a controversial penalty, in a race when Antonio’s race was also destroyed by a loose visor strip getting lodged in the brake ducts.

“Issues like these really put the pressure on delivering the perfect session every time, as there is no room for mistakes when the margins are so tight. We need to keep working to improve all that is under our control – and then what is down to luck will hopefully take care of itself.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “Alfa Romeo’s “big step forward” not reflected in points yet – Vasseur”

  1. They are certainly not there on the pace of Alpine and definitely better than Williams and Haas. Irrespective of the improvements, they are where they should be. They are not going to challenge the mid-field teams in the standings.

    1. Maybe, but vasseur has a point here.
      Scraping for points will always be hard for backmarker teams. Inconsistent mashalling will hurt even more in those circumstances.

  2. Before the legion of Kimi fans devour me I wonder if a part of this is down to drivers underperforming? I’m not really sure if either driver is driving beyond the level of the car on even a semi-regular basis, certainly nowhere near what Leclerc was doing in mid to late 2018.

    Sadly for Alfa they’ve made the wrong choice of keeping the same driver line up in a year when rules have remained static, and are faced with making a potentially Haas-like choice for 2022, when they really needed some continuity. Call me a hater all you like, but I’m not sure how fair it is to the likes of Ilott and Pourchaire whose careers would be nixed because a 42 year old man wants to keep doing his hobby and isn’t really driving the team forward with his leadership substantially.

    1. @wsrgo I too see they are not the best in the world, but young upshots are interested in showing themselves to better teams and will go for glory drives and making sure they beat their team mate, which means more risk-taking (crashing) and less co-operation than what the team needs. Rookies will also have a bedding-in process to go through. Besides, look even how Red Bull are struggling to find a good driver. Sure a Hulkenberg would maybe be a better swap for Giovinazzi, but he is not Italian etc.

  3. Hiring a decent driver might help.

  4. They’ve been downgrading their performance.

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