George Russell, Williams, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Alfa Romeo: We have better race car, Williams have Russell

2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Alfa Romeo says their qualifying gains are enough to challenge many of the midfield teams, but are struggling to contain the threat of Williams’ George Russell.

At the Austrian Grand Prix, Russell made it to Q3 for the first time this year and started eighth. The highest place an Alfa Romeo driver has qualified in 2021 is 10th.

A first-lap pit stop for Antonio Giovinazzi and a last-lap crash for Kimi Raikkonen meant both Alfa Romeo drivers finished behind Russell in Austria. Raikkonen ran as high as sixth at one stage but most of his first stint was spent sitting behind Russell.

Xevi Pujolar, Alfa Romeo’s head of trackside engineering, commented on the team’s inability to beat a car they knew they could have been ahead of.

“It’s quick on the straights. I can confirm that. Difficult to follow and to pass on the straights. but I think we have got a better race car.

“In qualifying, I have to say that Russell is quite especially doing a very good job in qualifying, and we just need to work harder and match it or do better. But overall, I will say that in the race we were generally better in terms of pace.”

Alfa Romeo need to wring everything from their package to challenge Russell and their other midfield rivals, said Pujolar.

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“Here is a specific track and Silverstone will still not be easy. But you can see that last weekend and this weekend, we can fight with them, we can race them.

Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Gallery: 2021 Austrian Grand Prix in pictures
“Not only Russell, but we can fight here with with Alpine, with Aston Martin, and even one of the AlphaTauris. So everything is very tight.”

Williams’ team principal Jost Capito, who has previously worked with Raikkonen as well as Russell, and is impressed by his driver’s ability to get ahead of their rivals.

“The expectations were high [for Russell] especially after last year,” he said. “And I think he fully delivers according to the expectations.”

Russell’s average qualifying position this year is 13.5, putting him ahead of Raikkonen and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and only just behind Giovinazzi. Alfa Romeo have previously said their “big step forward” this year hasn’t been reflected in their results.

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2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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22 comments on “Alfa Romeo: We have better race car, Williams have Russell”

  1. Oh they finally notice it themselves?
    They have the worst line-up, apart from Haas who has 2 rookies. GIO is nothing special and RAI is way over his prime. They should have gone for Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Kvyat or Illot this year already. Hopefully they will choose wisely for the 2022 line-up.

    1. There should be some kind of Racefans forfeit for mentioning Hulkenberg in the comments…

      He had a decade in the sport to prove there was a reason to sign him. And nobody wanted to sign him. He’s finished, as is Magnussen, as is Kvyat.

      Bring in the new blood instead of returning to the old-and-never-quite-made-it blood.

      1. There’s more reason to sign him than Giovinazzi, Räikkönen (in ’21), Mazepin, Stroll, Bottas, Latifi, Ocon… He had his chance and did nothing? He outperformed many drivers, it’s not like all the rest are race winners (especially on merit, not great luck). If he was driving the best car I’m sure he’d score many wins, why not a championship like Button did for example. He’s always had a fine qualy and race pace and was quite reliable compared to most of his teammates. He’s better than almost half the current field, if not more. So why shouldn’t he be mentioned? Ah because he’s not 20 years old. Why should that matter? This isn’t football, you don’t sell young talents for money, here it’s all about either performance or sponsors (sadly).

      2. Agreed. Rose-tinted glasses. He had some really good moments in not-so-great cars, but in general he was just a midfield runner most of his career. Bringing him back after a couple of years out of the sport will not suddenly make him a top driver.

  2. Some telling comments there.
    I would have expected Giovinazzi to improve more in his third year – there’s some flashes of good performances but not enough to justify staying on.
    Raikkonen again has some excellent moments, mostly on Lap 1, but has had nearly as many howlers, mostly ending in completely unnecessary accidents.
    2022 isn’t the perfect time for it, but I’d like to see Alfa Sauber completely revamp their lineup. Someone experienced like Bottas or Hulkenberg, with a new talent like Ilott, Schwartzmann etc would be ideal.

  3. Giovinazzi did improve, but the cars gradually got worse since he got the seat and nobody even notices him, but he is driving better than Kimi for some time already.

    Raikkonen on the other hand, is finished. The sparks of talent still there are getting fewer by the day and he’s already making very strange mistakes like the one in Portugal and the other with Vettel in yesterday’s race. Time to go.

    1. Yes, he’s very old though at this point, you can’t realistically expect to compete at 43 or something, see even schumacher was struggling and with all respect to raikkonen, schumacher was on another level at his prime. In the 50s it was possible, but nowadays it’s way too old. Don’t think even alonso has much left.

      1. Rodric Ewulf
        6th July 2021, 7:32

        Apart from being more incident prone recently Raikkonen’s form didn’t really changed much in the last seven years or so. If you would pick a point where he passed his prime it would be after leaving Lotus-Renault for his second stint at Ferrari 2014-18, so it’s not clear that it was due to age.

  4. Just poach Russel already. Let him drive in Silverstone. Normalized summer transfer. They can sell him to Merc later.

  5. That’s one way of announcing a change in driver line-up…

  6. Gio is not really doing better, it’s rai that’s doing worse.
    There are flashes of the alfa performance during fp, but seldom during races.
    And indeed Russell is performing on a high level apart from his starts. He is a slow learner in that regard.
    It seems he lacks the same spatial awareness Kimi showed in the last lap against Vettel.

  7. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    5th July 2021, 18:20

    It’s a bit harsh calling out their drivers like that but they’re not wrong, their car is generally better than the Williams but neither Giovinazzi or Raikkonen are extracting the most from it. I’m not sure Raikkonen’s heart’s fully in it anymore and Giovinazzi’s just ‘ok’ – and the team needs more than just ok.

    There are literally so many out of seat drivers available that Alfa Sauber have a brilliant pick of the bunch. Personally I’d like to see an Ilott/Albon lineup.

    1. Remember Leclerc finishing seventh in his sixth race for Sauber? Yeah.

      1. someone or something
        5th July 2021, 19:51

        And?

    2. Ilott and Albon aren’t better than Giovinazzi that’s for sure.

  8. Curses can be broken unless the Spanish veteran does the “relegation goal moment” or unless some other one gets cursed or if the Real Alfa who are still Sauber to some people gets suspected of driver aids while in front of the British team.

  9. someone or something
    5th July 2021, 19:50

    Conspiracy time:
    Yesterday, Dieter wrote about Bottas’ possible “soft landing” at Sauber.
    I can’t say I found the reasons for that career path overly convincing, but this story kind of fits: Sauber might be talking up Russell because they want him to displace Bottas at Mercedes, allowing Sauber to get some fresh blood for their increasingly lacklustre line-up.

  10. I was convinced Alfa were going to do a double driver change for 2021, but they ended up keeping both of them. Really bad decision I felt, just didn’t really make any sense because neither driver has any long term future in F1. Kimi doesn’t even seem to appreciate having an F1 seat anymore, and just takes it for granted, leading to some really inconsistent performances. Gio is clearly a very average driver, probably if he was at a team like Alpha Tauri, wouldn’t have lasted more than a season.

    1. Fully agreed. I was very dissapointed last year when they announced the line-up and left Illot without a seat.

    2. I would also give schumacher an upgrade from haas to alfa, I think he’s driving well and deserves to be able to show something more on a bit more decent car, and effectively alfa needs to change at least a driver soon.

  11. McLaren has better car while Alfa Romeo have Kimi. Kimi should go back to McLaren.

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