Alfa Romeo, despite showing a great pace in the pre-season testing, hasn't had an impressive season so far, with only two points to their name in the constructors' standings: one obtained by Antonio Giovinazzi in Monaco, and the other by his teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Baku, after being stripped of his 9th place scored in Imola due to a time penalty.
In 2020, the team had two points already after the first round, due to Giovinazzi's P9 in Austria.
Team Principal Frederic Vasseur, however, believes that the 2021 campaign has been more successful than the previous, as the team improved a lot during the winter break, and that their leaderboard placement doesn't reflect it: "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," he said, according to RaceFans.net.
He added that their improvement was definitely substantial, "perhaps the biggest among all teams on the grid," pointing out how much their lap times have improved:
"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.”
Vasseur explained that the good form of the C41 can't be pinned to a single part of the car, praising his teams' work on the chassis and their supplier Ferrari on the power unit:
“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."
"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.”
Evidence of the progress made can be found in the better statistics regarding the qualifying session:
"We had only eight Q2 appearances in 2020, including when we put two cars in Q3 in the rain in Turkey. 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."
Vasseur believes that reasons for not scoring as much as they could are both bad luck and team mistakes, with the drivers often not ending the race or in the points because of various issues.
Alfa Romeo's Team Principal is self-critical: "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."
However, he went on, mistakes weren't made only by their side:
“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."
Vasseur concluded that, while it can be difficult to work when such an important role is played by luck, his team has to focus on what they can actually control: "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," he concluded.