Alfa Romeo has a very diverse line-up this year: on the one hand, a vice-champion of the world who now has extensive experience at the head of the engine, Valtteri Bottas; on the other, a pure novice, that is, Guanyu Zhou.
The Swiss team obviously placed different expectations on their two drivers, but in proportion to their goals, Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou seem to be giving Hinwil full satisfaction.
This sentence was confirmed in the Paul Ricard paddock by Jan Monchaux, technical director of Alfa Romeo.
“They impressed us a lot. I mean, with Valtteri, we knew what we were going to get. And he fully confirmed it: his professionalism, his technical contribution, but also the positive attitude he had internally, which also gave the team a boost. So no big surprises and it delivers on its promises. I mean, we know he’s had a great qualifying run, even though he’s had some rough weekends here and there. And in races he usually doesn’t make many mistakes. So we know we have a very strong referral engine. »
“Zhou is for me … he’s the surprise of the season. We have short memories, but if you read some of the comments from reporters last winter, they were skeptical enough, to be diplomatic. And he’s a great driver. He’s learning a lot, he’s very focused, he’s been impressive in the race since the start, in terms of his overtaking abilities. He’s pretty impressive for a rookie – he doesn’t damage the car. I mean, he’s been involved in two crashes, but other than that he’s usually clean, and in qualifying he’s been steadily improving. There’s still room for improvement.”
“Fortunately, we have a reference driver, so he also knows where to work. But Zhou is earlier where we wanted him to be than we originally planned. So it’s a very, very good surprise for us and I think for F1 in general. »
The C42, especially compared to previous years, also gives satisfaction: today it allows Alfa Romeo to aim for 6th place in the constructors’ ranking, ahead of Haas and behind Alpine.
“We’re reasonably happy with the car. Like every team, we have a reference driver, he always runs at his best, so we know where there’s room for improvement and we’re working on it. So overall, we’re, shall we say, happy with the base, but it’s also about development during the season. »
“Our competitors are not sleeping, so it’s also about making updates and upgrades while staying within the cost limit, which is a pretty interesting exercise.”
There is a real black spot that poisons Alfa Romeo’s life, particularly Valtteri Bottas’ free practice, and Monchaux acknowledges it: reliability.
“Probably where we’ve suffered the most is with reliability, where we’ve had a few setbacks, and that’s something we need to address as a priority, in order to give both drivers a car to run the whole session and we’re also driving a drive home on Sunday, because we’ve lost a lot of points this season and that’s pretty boring.”
Alfa Romeo and the porpoise problem quickly solved
At the beginning of the year, in the winter tests in Barcelona, Alfa Romeo was one of the teams with the most problems with the porpoise. Not anymore. How did the technical director and his team do?
“Like, I suppose, all the teams: looking at the data and doing a few tests and maneuvering with a car in an area where the problem would not be there, or almost not. It is relatively simple to know what to do to prevent this behavior from your car. And we were, because of all the work we did on the flat bottom, in the setup, we were able to quickly get out of the difficult zone. But yes, Barcelona, in the winter tests, was difficult. »
And now ? Can Alfa Romeo have a reasonable aim, in the second half of the season, to stay in touch with McLaren and Alpine in terms of performance?
“Hopefully we can spoil the party for the guys in orange and blue, and be there so to speak until the end of the season. We’re only at halftime. Now it’s about being consistent, bringing updates. I think from the point of view of the pace of the car, we can go challenge these guys.”
“But the midfield is so tight that you can easily be at the back of Q2 or even miss Q1 – four tenths is very, very tight, so you don’t have to have any gaps for the rest of the race Q1. season if we really want to challenge the teams in front of us. »