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Formula 1

What’s going on with Alfa, as pointless streak reaches six races

by Edd Straw
4 min read

Valtteri Bottas described Alfa Romeo’s Dutch Grand Prix as “one of the most difficult weekends of the season”, with the team extending its Formula 1 points drought to six races.

Bottas retired from 13th thanks to a Ferrari engine problem, with team-mate Zhou Guanyu finishing 16th after losing time to a five-second penalty for speeding in the pits. That was caused by a brief overspeed as the car recovered from the anti-stall kicking in when he locked the rears slowing for the pitlane at his first stop.

The team was encouraged by its race pace, although a poor qualifying performance with Zhou and Bottas starting 14th and 16th respectively meant both cars struggled to make progress in the race.

“Absolutely,” said Bottas, when asked if this was among the most challenging events of the year. “It was one of the most difficult weekends of the season [as Alfa Romeo was] lacking the pace in qualifying.

“At least in the race it was promising, but still a hard weekend for the team.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Dutch Grand Prix Qualifying Day Zandvoort, Netherlands

“It would have still been a challenge to get into the points, but we were definitively fighting to get there.”

Sauber-run Alfa Romeo last scored points in June’s Canadian Grand Prix, where Bottas and Zhou took seventh and eighth.

The team has lost touch with the battle for fourth between Alpine and McLaren since then, but still holds sixth place in the constructors’ championship with a 17-point advantage over Haas.

While the recent pointless run is a concern, head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar felt that struggles getting the Pirelli tyres into the right temperature window for qualifying laps made the Alfa Romeo C43 look worse than it really was at Zandvoort.

The circuit was expected to suit the characteristics of the car and that pace did show through in the race despite both cars being contained by track position.

“On a track like this, we expected to perform well within the midfield,” said Pujolar when asked by The Race about its struggles.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Dutch Grand Prix Race Day Zandvoort, Netherlands

“But we struggled quite a lot on the first timed lap just to find the performance with the tyres.

“In race pace, we were good and able to fight in the midfield. But obviously if we cannot qualify well, it makes everything a bit more difficult.

“We started to make quite a lot of changes during the weekend and towards the end of practice and in qualifying, we started to go a bit better, but it was a bit too late.

“Zhou was just in Q2 and we could see some potential even then to reach close to Q3. But with Valtteri we missed that window.”

Although Alfa Romeo has introduced some minor upgrades in recent races, it does appear to have lost ground in the development race.

This is both thanks to not adding enough extra performance to keep pace with its early-season rivals, having been a regular Q3 car in the first part of the year, and the gains rivals have made in simply having got closer to the minimum weight.

The team does have more upgrades to come, but Zhou admitted that Alfa Romeo is being out-developed currently.

“The other teams seem to be quicker in terms of producing the new parts, bringing new upgrades every weekend,” said Zhou.

“For us, normally it’s one car or it takes a few weekends [to have a full set of parts] and when it’s a triple-header, it’s always going to be difficult for us to just survive with the pack.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Dutch Grand Prix Qualifying Day Zandvoort, Netherlands

“There will be more coming later in the season, but I guess now we have to try and work better with what we have and get closer to the points.”

It is concerning for Alfa Romeo that its season has lost so much momentum. In terms of its lack of points threat, Zandvoort was its worst weekend of the year.

But as it did have good race pace the hope must be that this was a blip rather than indicative of a trend that will continue to the end of the season.

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