Alfa Romeo’s misjudgement which prompted Giovinazzi’s sarcastic radio ‘thanks’

2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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Antonio Giovinazzi told his team “thanks for the great strategy” on his radio at the end of the Mexico City Grand Prix.

But the downcast driver, who had just finished 11th for the third race in a row, was clearly being sarcastic. He slipped out of the points having run seventh before his only pit stop. Among the drivers he fell behind was team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who came in eighth.

“I’m just really disappointed because today we had a chance to score points with two cars,” said Giovinazzi after the race. “But on my side, the strategy was completely wrong.”

“We pitted too early, but I don’t think [that] was the issue,” he explained. “The issue was that when I came out, I was in traffic. The strategy didn’t work.”

Alfa Romeo looked in good shape at the end of the first lap. Giovinazzi took advantage of the mayhem at the first corner to jump up to sixth place. Raikkonen, who had to dodge several drivers who went off, stayed 10th.

It was to no surprise when Carlos Sainz Jnr motored past Giovinazzi after the restart, but the team was hopeful of holding onto seventh, which would have been their best result of the season to date.

“In turn one with all the incidents we lost a bit of position with Kimi, but we were very well positioned with Antonio,” the team’s head of track engineering Xevi Pujolar explained. “So there was still a good chance to score points.”

The team’s strategy for Giovinazzi was influenced by the progress of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, who had pitted following their first-lap tangle, fallen to the back of the field and were working their way forwards.

“Everything was going to plan,” said Pujolar. “I think most people had planned with the medium and hard [tyres]. In terms of strategy it’s how early will you go and how much will you extend the stint with a hard.

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“For us there was no incentive to go early, it was not needed, but at one point, Antonio started to struggle with the rear tyres. We were looking at the traffic behind, Kimi was still with good pace and we had that group with Ricciardo and Bottas that came in early and we knew that they were managing a bit the tyres.”

Alfa Romeo became concerned Sebastian Vettel and other drivers pursuing Giovinazzi would head for the pits early in an effort to get ahead of him.

“The last thing we wanted was to have everyone compress behind Antonio. So we decided to box Antonio. And we knew that he will go out with them, with Bottas and Ricciardo.”

However Pujolar admitted the team predicted Ricciardo and Bottas would be quick enough not to hold Giovinazzi up. “What we misjudged here is the pace of these two guys,” he said. “We thought that their pace will be faster or as fast as Kimi and all these [other] guys.”

An unhappy Giovinazzi complained “but now I’m in the traffic” on his radio after being told his team mate and Vettel had stayed out and were lapping quicker.

“That was not ideal for Antonio and we didn’t expect that,” said Pujolar. “At that point we compromised that race because Ricciardo was – I don’t know if he had some problem, because even if you manage you don’t lose so much time. So I don’t know which kind of problems they had but we were losing track time with Antonio.”

By the time Ricciardo and Bottas pitted, Vettel and Raikkonen had already changed their tyres and rejoined ahead of Giovinazzi. “With Kimi we were just managing the gap between Vettel and Alonso,” said Pujolar. “There was no incentive to come in too early.

“So once we got the right window, we went with Kimi. For sure, we wanted to get close to Vettel and see if we could challenge him but it was not possible.”

But for Giovinazzi, whose future in Formula 1 remains uncertain, it was another potential points-scoring opportunity lost. “Kimi stayed P8 and I was P7 at that moment, so the disappointment is because the team didn’t score as much as possible,” he said afterwards. “This is really hard for myself as well.”

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2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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20 comments on “Alfa Romeo’s misjudgement which prompted Giovinazzi’s sarcastic radio ‘thanks’”

  1. Did you guys see what was Gio saying in Sky Italia? He bluntly said that the team ruin his race on purpose.

    1. Well, all the more reason to think we won’t be seeing much more of him

      1. @minilemm I reckon he already knows his fate, hence, why he was unreserved in his criticism.

    2. @ruliemaulana really? It’s all coming to a slightly unpleasant end between them regardless. And obviously teams don’t like Sauber (or any) purposely sabotage their drivers.

      1. Here’s what he said

        I lost all the undercut gap I should have done. When I got out the tires were already gone and when they stopped the others were faster than me. Completely wrong strategy. Ruin my races? Until now I didn’t want to believe it. But today I am really very disappointed


        1. On this occasion, he is right that the strategy was awful, but to imply the team are trying to sabotage him is ridiculous. This comment, along with his ignoring of team orders in Turkey makes me think Alfa Romeo should bite the bullet and fire him now. It can’t be good for team morale to have someone like this around. Yes he is leaving anyway, but Sauber have still showed faith in him for three seasons when, despite an impressive GP2 season in 2016, he has rarely been good enough in F1, so he should be showing gratitude for that rather than just anger that he is losing his drive. Alfa Romeo should bring in whoever they are signing for next season (Zhou or De Vries or whoever it may be) now, or Kubica if that is contractually impossible. Yes, this is harsh, but for the good of the rest of the team I believe it is necessary. If I have interpreted his comments incorrectly, then apologies to Giovinazzi, and I take back this comment.

          1. @f1frog I prefer Valtteri to Alfa Romeo, Russel to Merc, and Albon to Williams for the last four races.

          2. Normally I agree with you but not here, I agree with others that the team made strange decisions for giovinazzi all year, and I’m a big conspiracy theorist in general (hamilton 2016 too).

          3. Thanks for normally agreeing with me, @esploratore , it’s nice to hear that my comments are memorable.
            But on this occasion, why do you think Alfa Romeo would want to sabotage Giovinazzi? I don’t see the benefit of doing so, particularly when they have been locked in a championship battle with Williams all year. Yes, he has had some odd strategies, but I would think that is down to just poor strategists, rather than an attempt to sabotage him.

        2. @ruliemaulana

          I lost all the undercut gap I should have done. When I got out the tires were already gone and when they stopped the others were faster than me. Completely wrong strategy. Ruin my races? Until now I didn’t want to believe it. But today I am really very disappointed

          Interesting. When Gio got rid of Ricciardo and Bottas he was about 30 secs. behind Raikkonen, about 20 secs. behind Alonso and about 10 secs. behind Norris. These three kind of bunched up together at the end of the race, and in free air Gio ended up almost 40 seconds behind the last of them. In fact, Ricciardo was the one who caught him by the end, finishing less than one second behind him! So the “sabotage” through strategy is only part of the story here. Alfa Romeo certainly weren’t the masters of strategical thinking with him, but Giovinazzi also generally doesn’t know how to preserve his tyres in good shape. And he should be more proactive with strategy as well. Imagine one of the top drivers in his situation, he would know how to take car of his tyres behind cars struggling for pace, not pushing for a overtake that would never come, keeping most of tyre deg for later to finally catch the guys ahead when in free air like Alonso did in Hungary this year. Nevertheless, even a top driver probably wouldn’t pass them, as the strategy wasn’t optimal anyway. The Alfa Romeo strategists had fallen for the siren song of the undercut, which seemed to work for Bottas and Ricciardo mostly because of other drivers stopping early for the undercut. In this race at Mexico City it acted similarly to financial bubble. In reality the better strategy was to stay longer on mediums and making the most of hards in the second half of the race, so unlike the previous race in COTA the undercut was clearly not that powerful. Even if Perez could have passed Hamilton with the undercut, that certainly would have been marginal if successful, differently from what could have been done at other tracks.

  2. Alfa Romeo indeed threw away a possible (& rare-ish) double points finish. I don’t expect them to catch Williams anyway, but a higher points haul would’ve still been better as anything can happen in the remaining races.

    1. They threw away lots of points finishes but Gio is not innocent here he was one culprits in Turkey.

  3. I think his criticism is fair. He put himself in a great position after the first lap and then Sauber completely misjudged the strategy.
    Being cautious of an undercut makes sense, but boxing your driver to put him in traffic makes no sense whatsoever.

  4. I don’t believe in the sabotage theory either. First – no team will loose points just so that they don’t re-sign a driver they don’t want… they simply won’t re-sign at the end of the year. Second – there are recent examples of drivers doing a great job, but still getting the boot.

    There’s the well-known theory of Ferrari sabotaging Kimi back in 2009 so that they can sign Alonso and get the Bank Sabadell money, but Kimi had a contract and Antonio doesn’t.

  5. American football and baseball players have performance bonuses in their contracts. It is not uncommon for teams that can’t make the playoffs to not play these players. Alpha might not want to pay a bonus to Gio.

  6. To be honest, the strategic decisions made by Giovinazzi’s side of the team have been shocking all season. It is a little bit strange. Multiple times they’ve pitted him ridiculously early, or committed him to a bizarre strategy. If I were him I’d be more than a bit annoyed.

    1. @tflb
      Yeah, they let him down too many times this season, so he should take more the issues with his own hands, specially if he’s suspicious of his own team’s good faith.

    2. Same happened several times with Kimi. And in top of that for both drivers some horrendous pit stops.

  7. For us there was no incentive to go early, it was not needed, but at one point, Antonio started to struggle with the rear tyres

    Is this not at the heart of the problem though? If Antonio had managed his tyres better in the first stint, he would have had more strategic options available to him.

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