June 22, 2021
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Alfa Romeo’s “big step forward” not reflected in points yet – Vasseur | 2021 F1 season

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Bad luck has prevented Alfa Romeo from reaping the dividends of the “big step forward” it has made with its car this year, says team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Kimi Raikkonen scored his first point of the season with 10th place in Azerbaijan last weekend. The team’s only other points score this season came at the previous race in Monaco, where Antonio Giovinazzi also finished 10th.

The team lies eighth in the championship, 23 points behind the nearest rival ahead. But Vasseur believes “looking at the standings doesn’t really say the full story as I think our performance has been a lot more positive than the total amount of points collected so far says.”

“As a team, we have made a really big step forward from last season to this,” said Vasseur, “perhaps the biggest among all teams on the grid.

“The data speaks for itself – just looking at qualifying, the average gap we have from pole position went down by more or less a percentage point, while in the race we have made also significant progress, above half a percentage point.

“In such a close grid, that’s a big jump forward and I think we’re not done yet delivering the full potential of our package.”

Alfa Romeo’s power unit supplier Ferrari is believed to have made significant gains with its new engine for 2021, but Vasseur says Alfa Romeo’s chassis has also contributed.

“The whole entirety of the C41 is working better than its predecessor and it would be unfair to point to a single element to give credit for the progression we have made,” he said. “The power unit has made a big step forward, of course, but we have improved every aspect of our car and the result is visible on track.”

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Vasseur said the team’s superior qualifying performances compared to last year demonstrate its progress. “We had only eight Q2 appearances in 2020, including when we put two cars in Q3 in the rain in Turkey.” he said.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021
Giovinazzi suffered pit stop problems in Bahrain and Spain

“Now after six races, we have already cleared Q1 eight times out of 12 possible, and we have a Q3 on pure merit – in the dry, in Monaco. Last weekend, in Baku, we had the strongest pace we’ve had on Saturday all season, even though the final positions on the grid didn’t reflect it.”

A mixture of team errors plus misfortune and debatable officiating decisions explain why Alfa Romeo has only scored two points so far, Vasseur believes.

“There have obviously also been some specific instances in which we could and should have done better – an issue with Antonio’s [pit] stop in Bahrain, when he was running in the points; Kimi’s crash in Portugal.

“But in many cases, it’s been something outside our control – Antonio’s race in Spain was ruined when the FIA marshalling system mistakenly prevented him from catching up with the pack, or when we lost two points we had scored with Kimi in Imola due to a controversial penalty, in a race when Antonio’s race was also destroyed by a loose visor strip getting lodged in the brake ducts.

“Issues like these really put the pressure on delivering the perfect session every time, as there is no room for mistakes when the margins are so tight. We need to keep working to improve all that is under our control – and then what is down to luck will hopefully take care of itself.”

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