“It has been a disaster but we just have to do things better. And we have to make the car faster – as simple as that.”
365体育投注APPThat was Kimi Raikkonen’s succinct summary of his Hungarian Grand Prix weekend and could be used to explain the season as a whole so far for Alfa Romeo. Raikkonen has yet to score a point and one more finish outside of the top 10 would mark the worst start to any of his 18 campaigns in Formula 1. Antonio Giovinazzi crept into the points in Austria but ostensibly had the high rate of attrition to thank. Alfa Romeo has suffered three straight Q1 exits and the C39 has been the slowest car in each qualifying session.
But delve deeper into the situation and this is more than Alfa Romeo having a sluggish start to the campaign. Its progress through 2018 was strong and towards the end of the season was occasionally F1’s fastest midfielder, having begun the year as a backmarker.
365体育投注APPAfter its strong development and progress through 2018, in which with Charles Leclerc it starred, Alfa Romeo started 2019 in similarly bright fashion. As almost-rookie Giovinazzi got up to speed the more experienced Raikkonen used his tenacity to continue racking up points. But as the midfield teams developed Alfa Romeo began to regress. Alfa Romeo scored points at just one of 2019’s final six grands prix – a stunning fourth and fifth in the craziness of Brazil – and ended the year scrapping to escape Q1 rather than challenging for Q3. Take out that anomalous Brazilian madness and Alfa Romeo has picked up only five points (all via Giovinazzi) in the last 11 grands prix. In the same time frame over the first half of 2019 it managed 32 points. It has been left chasing shadows by upwardly mobile teams and on one-lap pace has fallen behind Williams.
The one-lap pace has in particular been a concern. It has dropped to being the slowest team for the last three races, ostensibly its predicament accentuated by Ferrari’s engine drop-off and having two drivers who are stronger on Sundays than Saturdays.
“In qualifying, for one-lap performance it was worse than what we expected but then I think it’s an area we are working to improve,” said Alfa Romeo’s Head of Trackside Engineering Xevi Pujolar.
“In the race, the pace was better and we were able to fight with the midfield competition so yeah, that’s an area that we were expecting more in qualifying and we are working on it.”
It has left Alfa Romeo playing catch-up in race trim in normal circumstances. Alfa Romeo’s grid positions so far this year have been P16, P18, P19, P19, P19 and P20. From there, points are always going to be a long shot.
“Looking at the data it is very clear the car was more competitive than our finishing positions would suggest,” said Team Principal Frederic Vasseur in Hungary. “We had the pace to challenge our direct rivals and some quicker cars, but starting from the back we were always going to be at a disadvantage. Both cars had good pace and we could have brought home a point or two with a bit more luck. With a better qualifying, we would have been in the thick of the fight for points.”
There have been mitigating circumstances. A cross-threaded wheel nut in Austria skewered Raikkonen, as did his penalty for incorrectly lining up in Hungary, while strategically Giovinazzi was compromised last time out when he took on Softs rather than Mediums. But the slow Saturdays are proving critical for Sundays.
“We just need to push really hard and get the maximum from the car,” said Giovinazzi in Hungary, repeating a much-worn platitude.
But given the condensed season, the C39’s poor one-lap pace, and absence of venues where an upset is likelier, Giovinazzi’s Austrian points already look crucial in the battle to avoid F1’s wooden spoon.