Alfa Romeo is sixth in the Constructors’ Championship. But the Swiss can even dream of fourth place. The car can compete with McLaren and Alpine. And the drivers keep getting better.
After two races, Alfa Romeo reported in Montreal. Like Alpine, the Swiss racing team brought home ten points from Canada. McLaren wrote zero. Fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship is no longer a concept for last year’s ninth World Championship. There are still 14 points missing. And now there are four races following the Sauber C42. The unpopular C5 tire is only used in Spielberg.
The engineers continued to develop their car aggressively in the first third of the season. Major improvements were added in Jeddah, Imola, Barcelona and Baku. The strategy was obvious: score points when direct opponents are weak. Now the design office in Hinwil has to slow down a bit. “It was always our plan to start early with the 2023 car,” explains team boss Frédéric Vasseur.
Knocking or stalling was no longer an issue for Alfa Romeo after the test drives. The C42’s aerodynamics also work for more ground clearance. Sauber is an all-rounder. It just doesn’t like corners that require large steering angles, and it clashes with Pirelli’s softer rubber compound. That is why there were only two points in Monte Carlo and Baku.
The strategists played two cards
In Montreal, the Allies returned to normalcy. Guanyu Zhou qualified for Q3 for the first time. Valtteri Bottas did not jump there because he finished his last lap of Q2 too early. “The track dried up so quickly that it gained seconds faster with each lap.” In that race, the Finn made up an unlucky time with seventh place.
Starting from tenth and eleventh place, Alfa Romeo played both cards. Bottas was sent out on hard tires for the one-stop race. Zhou followed the trend with medium tires at first. “If your two cars start close to each other, you have to split your positions. There is always a safety car in Montreal,” sports director Beat Zehnder explained the approach. Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin thought the same.
The strategy worked. Alfa Romeo had a good pit stop time. Zhou’s two tire changes and Bottas’ one were placed in the fixed phases of the race. Of the barriers, only Bottas made it to the safety car on lap 49.
“We would have left Valtteri longer to wait for the safety car. He is very good at tire management,” reveals Zehnder. The one-stop conditions and perfect timing saved Bottas 22.9 seconds compared to his direct rival Fernando Alonso.
reliability of the problem
The team also landed correctly with Zhou. The Chinese used the first phase of VSC and the safety car for its two pit stops and crossed the finish line on the skid row of the team captain. Enough to take advantage of Alonso’s penalty. Alfa’s letter of command reported the Spaniard to race management. Alonso changed lanes four times on the final lap to hold off Bottas. The move could not be seen in the world signal of TV channels.
Zhou is improving at Alfa Romeo. According to Zehnder, he is one of the best newcomers the team has ever had. “His speed is very good, especially in the race. He should have more points to his credit.”
The fact that this is not the case is also due to the high probability of the package for defects. Leaks in the cooling system have already occurred four times. This site should be cleaned by Silverstone. But there are also fires in other areas. In Montreal, Bottas lost another practice session, this time due to a fault with the gearbox controls. And with the car, the ten-time GP winner is already at the limit with all aspects.