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F1 | São Paulo GP | Pujolar says Alfa Romeo won’t give up on fight with Williams; explains Raikkonen’s late rear wing change: “A setup choice”

Head of Trackside Engineering at Alfa Romeo, Xevi Pujolar opens up on the team’s struggles at Interlagos, and how a change of approach regarding car setup was key to Kimi Raikkonen’s progress, as he fought his way to P12 after starting from the pit lane.

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F1 | São Paulo GP | Pujolar says Alfa Romeo won’t give up on fight with Williams; explains Raikkonen’s late rear wing change: “A setup choice”
Fuente imagen: Twitter @AlfaRomeoRacing

On Sunday morning at Interlagos, it was made public that Kimi Raikkonen would start the São Paulo GP from the pit lane, after the team broke the parc fermé seal on his car to change his rear wing for a different specification to the one used in qualifying and in the Sprint. The ‘Iceman’ had a solid chance of qualifying on the fringes of the top 10 on Saturday’s Sprint, but lost it all when he and his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi collided on the second lap of the short race.

At first glance, many thought the late change of wing was due to potential damage from the collision on Saturday. But speaking to selected media, including MotorLAT, after Sunday’s grand prix, the team’s Head of Trackside Engineering Xevi Pujolar explained the rationale of the change, noting that the difficulties Raikkonen had to overtake George Russell’s Williams on the Sprint meant a change of approach was needed for the main grand prix in, order to make progress up the field:

"It was a setup choice. We decided [to change it] because [Kimi] was already quite at the back. Yesterday he was struggling in the race, he couldn’t get [past] the Williams, and we tried a different configuration to see if it would make a difference.

"Yesterday it was unfortunate that incident, we hoped yesterday to gain a couple of positions, try to be close to the top 10, even with the configuration that we had yesterday, we were hoping to make [up] some more positions in the main race.

"Obviously then, Kimi losing the positions when he had the incident, then he got stuck behind the Williams. And then it’s one way, to decide ‘OK, it will be, [we] feel, very difficult during the main race’, we take a different approach with Kimi, and still [get] within reach of the points with either car. But we had to take action, we didn’t want to get stuck behind the Williams again."

Asked by MotorLAT what the change of rear wing meant for the rest of the car’s balance, Xevi mentioned the team’s freedom to change the rest of the setup once the parc fermé seal was already broken, and how the changes gave Raikkonen more confidence on race day at Interlagos:

"You need to re-balance the car, so when you change the rear wing, and once you break parc fermé, you can change the configuration – you’re free to change the setup. So we managed just to try something different. Kimi was more comfortable in the car."

Antonio Giovinazzi had somewhat of a quiet afternoon, the Italian finishing the race in a disappointing 14th place, behind both his teammate and the Williams of George Russell. Pujolar explained how Giovinazzi’s day was undone by traffic in the form of Lance Stroll’s badly damaged Aston Martin, consequence of an earlier incident with Yuki Tsunoda.

"In the middle of the race, with the traffic, we had some difficulties to overtake. We had both cars stuck behind [Lance] Stroll, and at that point, with how much time we spent stuck behind Stroll, we had also some upcoming traffic from [Yuki] Tsunoda, so we had to split the cars.

"How it went, Kimi was able to clear [Lance] Stroll, and Antonio couldn’t do that for a few laps, and that changed his race. Kimi showed good pace then in free air. But as I said, if you look at the middle of the race, in the first part and in the beginning of the second stint, Antonio’s pace, when he was there fighting and he had a bit of space ahead, he was as quick as Kimi as well."

With just three more races to go in 2021, Alfa Romeo trails Williams by 12 points in the constructors’ championship. Pujolar is remaining positive about his team’s chances, stating they "don’t give up":

"Hopefully we’ll be fighting with these midfield teams. We still hope to score points, and we still don’t give up on the fight against Williams."

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