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Formula 1

‘We make stupid mistakes too often’ – Why Alfa is kicking itself

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Alfa Romeo needs to cut back on the “stupid mistakes” in the second half of the 2021 Formula 1 season as it bids to fight back in the battle for eighth in the constructors’ championship with Williams, according to technical director Jan Monchaux.

The Sauber-run team has scored only three points this season, two for Kimi Raikkonen and one for Antonio Giovinazzi thanks to a trio of 10th places.

Raikkonen also lost two points thanks to a 30-second penalty for a procedural error when he failed to take the Imola restart from the pitlane after spinning into the gravel.

Kimi Raikkonen spin Imola 2021

As well as the Imola error, there have been several pitstop problems.

Most recently, Raikkonen was incorrectly released from his pitstop and hit Nikita Mazepin’s Haas in Hungary, but Giovinazzi also had problems in Bahrain, where what he called a “chaotic” stop compromised his race, and in Spain, where valve damage led to a loss of air pressure on his new front-left tyre, which was only detected during the pitstop where the tyre was being fitted.

Given that pitstop was made under the safety car in the Spanish GP, Giovinazzi wouldn’t have lost much time but for being given an erroneous delta time to maintain on his out-lap that meant he needlessly took the restart 12 seconds off the back of the field.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Race Day Barcelona, Spain

There have also been other driver errors, such as Raikkonen hitting the back of team-mate Giovinazzi at the end of the first lap of the Portuguese Grand Prix, that have held the team back. It is now seven points behind Williams in the battle for eighth.

“We need to make sure these mistakes will not happen again – this is very, very high on the agenda,” Monchaux told The Race.

“We make stupid mistakes too often, which we pay for very hard every time.

“It’s quite clear you can make a mistake once, but not twice.

“Everyone is aligned with that, especially those in charge at the track, the engineers, the mechanics, all of the team that represents the company. Each person is working very hard to make sure this does not happen again.

“Unfortunately, we seem to keep discovering new and unique problems, which I hope at some point will also stop.

“We are not taking this lightly. It’s one of the few good sides of going through this painful moment, it really forces you to do the inspection you need to do. You can’t push the responsibility on someone else.

“Why did we fail? It’s not who failed. Every human being can make mistakes under pressure, it’s about why people fail and if you ask the question often enough, you find the root cause. That’s a process that maybe is not clearly defined, or not robust enough.

“We constantly review all those things. It just shows that it’s an area we can improve compared to others. I hope we will, I know we are learning and I hope it will be less the focus in the next 12 races.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Budapest, Hungary

Despite such troubles, Alfa Romeo has made solid progress with its car this season. While it gained from Ferrari’s power unit improvement from 2020 to ’21, and should also gain from the engine upgrades scheduled for later in the season, it has also produced a car that appears relatively consistent.

The Alfa Romeo C41 is the ninth-fastest car on average qualifying pace, but has usually been more competitive in the race. Even then, it needs trouble-free runs to have a realistic shot at the points, which is a target for the second half of the year given the need to close the seven-point gap to Williams in the battle for eighth in the constructors’ championship.

Based on average single-lap pace, the Alfa Romeo is 0.8% closer to the pace this year than last year and Monchaux is satisfied with the step made.

But he invokes a footballing comparison of being 2-1 down at half-time in the battle for eighth with Williams when Alfa Romeo really should be 1-0 up.

“We’ve made good progress,” said Monchaux. “We’ve partially closed the gap to what’s called the ‘B division’.

“We’re still lacking performance, which will certainly be downforce, and probably also on the power unit, which has improved but there is still a gap.

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“But globally we haven’t been sharp enough in terms of scoring points, especially for the first four races of the season.

“In Bahrain we should have scored points and at Imola [too], because of a stupid mistake and not being fully on top of it even though it was a specific situation due the sporting regs.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Race Day Imola, Italy

“So it’s annoying because instead of being on three points, we could probably be on eight or nine by now. It’s not big points but it would make our life quite a bit easier.

“There are still 12 races to go and we are planning to do everything we can to restore what we think the performance of the car deserves, which will be to try and reclaim P8 back. But it’s going to be a tight fight.

“Those guys that are now in the lead are also highly motivated and we will see at the end of the day who will go into the winter with P8, which is not great. We are all in F1 to fight for all the positions, but it’s the minimum target this year.

“So there’s a lot of good thing but sometimes we are simply not sharp enough as a team. Sometimes it’s a driver, sometimes the team, sometimes strategy, sometimes a minor mistake.

“But it’s so tight that all these things, when you add them up at the end of the day, are also explaining why we are going back into the cabin to 2-1 down instead of being in the lead.”

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