Alfa Romeo's 2021 season isn't living up to the team's expectations. After showing a rather improved pace during the Bahrain tests, the Switzerland-based team scored only two points in the first nine races of the season, with both drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi often ending races barely out of the points.
Luck also hasn't been on their side, as Raikkonen lost his P9 in Imola due to a controversial 30 seconds penalty, and both drivers were impeded by slow pitstops, with Giovinazzi in Spain suffering a 35 seconds delay because of a flat tyre.
However, the C41 has shown an increased potential compared to last season's car, closing the gap with the faster teams, in spite of scoring half the points - in 2020 Alfa Romeo had 4 in the same number of races.
Team Principal Frederic Vasseur believes that 2021 has been a massive improvement since last season, and, as he told RaceFans.net in an exclusive interview, he feels like they deserve more points:
"It's a bit of a mixed feeling. Today we are one percent off the fastest. Last year, we are two percent. It’s like this from the beginning of the season.”
Many factors are involved in the improved car performance, as the power units supplied by Ferrari are more reliable and working better, but all the merit shouldn't be given to the Italian team:
"Part of the job is coming from the PU, for sure. But I think also on the chassis side we made a good job.”
With all these upgrades, the lack of points isn't coming from a bad race pace, or an huge gap to the opponent teams, Vasseur added, but it's rather a problem of "circumstances":
"Now with the circumstances we struggle to score points. You have zero DNFs from the beginning and even when you start P12, P13, you finish P11. But we have to do the job to continue like this, and it will happen that we’ll have more chaotic races and we are not so far away off the Q3.”
The drivers too aren't that fault. Alfa's Team Principal is satisfied with both of them. He praised Giovinazzi, who has outqualified his teammate in all races of the season so far bar two, "when he crashed in Baku and when he was blocked by Mazepin in Imola", and said that he particularly likes the new attitude has towards comparisons with his former World Champion teammate:
"He’s improving, the pace is going up, but we always want to get more and I’m always pushing them. It’s my job. I think one of the issues of Antonio so far was he was far too much into the comparisons with Kimi. Now he’s able to take the lead on some of decisions and say, ‘okay, I want to do this’. And for him, it was a step.”
Vasseur is extremely pleased with Raikkonen's reliability and strong race management, valuable skills he's picked up in his almost 20 years of F1 experience:
"You know Kimi perfectly, he has huge experience and he’s doing a fantastic job in the race to manage the situation. He’s always able to do the perfect job in the management.”
Another issue Alfa Romeo had to face in this season was the "bendy" rear wings controversy, brought up firstly against eared Bull but that involved them too, as well as Alpine and other contendants, that induced the FIA to increase the strictness of their pre race wing tests.
Vasseur showed his disapproval with the mid season regulation change: "I’m not a big fan of the change in the course of the season because we were sticking to the rules clearly. We went to the scrutineering 10 times, it was always okay, we were under the maximum deformation. And they changed the load. They changed the by 50 percent."
While always being in accordance to the rules, grey areas can be found and used as an advantage to reduce the gap with rivals, as it has already happened before, citing the controversial "double diffuser" issued by Brawn GP in 2009, when they won the championship:
"This, for me, the DNA of F1 is to be at the limit everywhere. When you have a limit on the weight you are always at the limit. And the DNA of every single team member is to try to be at the limit. If you change the limit, you are out of the rule.”
"Now we can have the same discussion for the front wing or we can have the same discussions… We can’t add a TD every single Monday morning because something happened on Friday. When Brawn GP was champion, they didn’t change the regulation the first Monday.”