It was a mixed Sprint race result for the Alfa Romeo at the historic Imola track. The highlight for the team came from Valtteri Bottas who delivered a strong P7 result and was able to secure two points for Alfa Romeo ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. However, misfortune continued for Bottas’s teammate Zhou Guanyu as he collided with Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gassly on the first lap causing him to retire from the race.
Bottas faced a challenging start to his day and was not able to set a time for FP2 due to the technical issues on his C42 that carried over previously from the Q3 session. After the Alfa Romeo mechanics worked diligently throughout the second practice session on the car, Bottas was able to compete in the first Sprint race of the season and deliver a solid result for the team.
Bottas praised the Alfa Romeo team for their hard work in ensuring that the C42 was ready on time and for delivering a competitive car that allowed the Finn to engage in some exciting on-track battles with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
“First of all, I want to thank the team who did a great job putting the car back together: there were so many things they had to change but they were brilliant and thankfully everything worked perfectly. I always trust the crew to get the car right, but they had a big task ahead of them and they delivered,” Bottas said after the Sprint race.
“Once we got racing, it was a fun afternoon with a lot of battling and some nice overtaking. I had a good, close fight with Fernando [Alonso] which was enjoyable, but overall it was an exciting Sprint for me. I had a bit of wheelspin at the start and I lost a few places, but after that my performance was strong. The car felt really good in terms of balance and we had good pace, so we should be in a strong position for tomorrow as well.”
Guanyu experienced a disappointing Sprint race debut. The former F2 driver managed to show some promising race pace in FP2 setting the 10th fastest time which was also a significant improvement from his P14 qualifying result. However, the unfortunate racing incident with Gasly on the opening lap during the Sprint race halted the Chinese driver’s chance to score extra points for Alfa Romeo before the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“It’s obviously disappointing to end a race like this, especially because we have a good car that allows us to be competitive” Gaunyu said.
“I was in a hard but fair fight with Pierre [Gasly] and Lewis [Hamilton] throughout the whole of sector one and the beginning of sector two, I made a move on Pierre in turn nine and I was ahead going into the braking zone. I got a big hit on the exit, and that spun me into the wall: it was a big surprise but that was the end of it.
“It’s a shame as we had a good opportunity to gain some places, the car has quite a bit of damage and it’s going to be a lot of work for the mechanics, unfortunately. Now we need to focus on making a comeback tomorrow: we still have a good car and you never know what can happen.
“The team is working in the right way, our upgrades work and we saw today that overtaking is possible. We will do our best – we made it into the points from last at turn one in Melbourne and we’ll try to do it again this time.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal at Alfa Romeo described the Sprint race as “a bittersweet feeling” for the team. The Frenchman commended Bottas for his strong performance in locking in two points and stated that the team will need to evaluate the damage to Guanyu’s car. Apart from Guanyu’s mechanical issues on the car, Vasseur believes that the C42 appears to have a strong race trim, and an opportunity for a concrete race result exists.
“It’s always a bittersweet feeling when you have a strong result with a car but the other fails to finish, but in a sense we can take it as, effectively, it’s just qualifying today,” Vasseur stated.
“Valtteri delivered a really determined performance, putting in some good overtakes and bringing home two points, and the fact he was racing at all is to the credit of the crew, who did an incredible job to rebuild his car from scratch after yesterday’s technical issues.
“Unfortunately, Zhou was caught in a first lap collision that ended his race: we need to assess the damage ahead of tomorrow but he has the means to make up ground. The main takeaway from today is that our car looks really strong in race trim and we can aim to have a good result tomorrow.”
The Alfa Romeo team will face a difficult and challenging start for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. While Bottas will be starting off the grid from seventh, Guanyu will begin the race from the pitlane due to the team breaching parc ferme conditions. Alfa Romeo was found guilty of breaching articles 40.6 and 40.9 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. The team was accused of “working on the car and carrying out unsupervised work on car 24 under Parc Ferme conditions” and therefore the car is required to start the race from the pitlane.