Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari F1 Team Season Review 2021

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The second season review is going to be for Alfa Romeo and you can read the previous review for Haas F1 here.

Pre-Season

2020 had not been a great year for Alfa Romeo, suffering with the weaker Ferrari engine meant they had finished 9th in the Constructor’s Championship.

For 2021, Ferrari had produced a better engine than in 2020. It was not top class compared to the rest of the field, but a solid improvement. Alfa Romeo were quietly confident that they would be back fighting in the midfield again. Testing seemed to show this with the Alfa lapping around the back of the midfield. With some luck they might be able to fight for good points.

Alfa Romeo have had financial difficulties over the last few years. The team were hoping that with some stability would come reasonable results and a chance to progress forward.

There were question marks over Kimi Raikkonen coming up to 42 years old. Many people felt he’d lost his raw speed and it was becoming a big debate whether he just wasn’t quick enough anymore. Alfa had a contract with him for the season and respected his feedback in helping develop the car. This meant Kimi was going to be around for the full season, at least.

With more stability and an improved engine over the previous year then Alfa were set to consolidate 9th in the Championship and possibly 8th if some luck went their way.

The Season

The season definitely failed to meet expectations. From the start it was clear that while they had taken a step forward in terms of gap to pole. The car was not where the team had hoped.

Pre-season, the talk was about fighting for a Q3 place. In reality, it was a struggle for them to get out of Q1. George Russell, over the season, took his slower Williams out of Q1 more often than either of the Alfa drivers.

It may seem like it was just the drivers being too slow, but that’s not exactly the case.

Williams’ car was much better in qualifying than in the race. The Alfa seemed to be better in the race than it was in qualifying. The drivers generally found themselves ahead of the Williams by a margin by the end of the race and being able to fight with the quicker midfield teams.

It was the qualifying that was hurting them the most. The positions they could gain in a race would not result in them being in point scoring positions at the chequered flag.

In the third slowest car, the drivers were not setting the timing screens alight. But when opportunities arose to score points there was often strategic errors made by the team or the drivers resulting in points not being scored.

Incidents such as calling the wrong strategy for their drivers hurt them a lot.

In Imola, the team gave the wrong information to Kimi about his position under the safety car. At the restart he started in the wrong position and was penalised by the stewards.  Falling from a point scoring position to outside the points.

Races like Hungary where Williams scored double points should have been more favourable to Alfa. However, Kimi was released unsafely in to the pitlane colliding with Mazepin and incurring a penalty. Antonio Giovinazzi was caught speeding in the pitlane and he received a penalty. All of these kept the cars at the back, stopping them from challenging with the pace they had shown in pre-season testing.

Driver Changes

During the middle part of the season, Kimi announced he would be retiring at the end of the season. His retirement wasn’t unexpected, but did set off a chain of driver moves.

Valterri Bottas was to take the seat at Alfa, effectively becoming the new lead driver. George Russell was to leave Williams for Mercedes and Alex Albon signed for Williams.

There remained rumours a plenty about Antonio and the other seat at Alfa as he didn’t have a contract for 2022.

Towards the end of the year Alfa, decided not to renew Antonio’s contract. He was rather disgruntled, posting about it on social media, claiming it was money talking in the sport and that’s why Alfa had replaced him with Guanyu Zhou.

Antonio had an average season. He scored more points than Kimi and had a few good qualifying sessions but he made a lot of mistakes. In the end his case to remain was not that strong.

Zhou comes with significant backing from China. People questioned whether F1 want him there as they look to bring a second race in China. But non-front running teams like Alfa do have regard to sponsorship money that drivers bring. Zhou also finished 3rd in the F2 championship taking a number of wins and poles. Zhou is not just a pay driver, he clearly has some pace and has earned a chance.

Overall, the season was a failure for Alfa Romeo.  Luck did appear to favour Williams at times, but the Alfa team collectively made too many mistakes.

Next Season

Alfa Romeo, are another team targeting the regulation changes for next year as a way to take a big step up the grid. They are also hoping that the cost cap can help them. In past years, Alfa have had one of the smallest budgets on the grid, but are looking to increase that over the next few years.

The money from Zhou can help with that but they’re also hoping that they have a young talented driver who can push the car to get some good results while he’s learning. In Bottas, they have a proven race winner. He was unable to match Lewis Hamilton’s consistency in the Mercedes, but he remains one of the best drivers out there. He was pivotal to Toto Wolff’s team winning five Constructor’s Titles in a row. His experience will be extremely valuable and will help them develop the car.

Without the top team pressure, Bottas will be hoping to show the pace he had at Williams which earned him the Mercedes seat.

The target for next year is likely to be the same as this year, take another step up the grid and look to retake 8th in the Constructor’s Championship with a few standout performances thrown in.

High Points

There really wasn’t very many. The potential high points were generally where they had expected to be at the start of the season.

What does stand out was Antonio’s qualifying at Monza and Zandvoort, he managed an impressive 7th at both tracks. Unfortunately, lap 1 incidents at both dropped him back down the field and out of the points.

Low Points

As the season failed to meet expectations there were few individual low points.

Hungary was definitely a low point. Mistakes by the drivers and the team, which were all avoidable, led to a clear points scoring chance being lost.

The last race in Abu Dhabi was also disappointing. It was last race for both drivers at the team. It was also the end of Kimi’s stunning career, but unfortunately, they had to both retire from the race.

In other news, F2 lineup update

Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images