F1i Team Reviews for 2019: Alfa Romeo

We continue our look at how each of the ten teams on the grid fared in 2019, including our thoughts as to how each of them may perform next season.

Alfa Romeo

The team picture

  • Constructors standing: P8, 57 points

Things had been looking up for Alfa Romeo in its previous guise as Sauber. After several seasons bumping along at the bottom and making up the numbers at the back of the grid, there was a real sense of optimism within the team at the end of 2018.

Rebranding as Alfa Romeo came with closer ties with Ferrari and the latest engine spec for 2020. They had to give up Charles Leclerc, but they got the veteran Kimi Raikkonen in his place to balance the rookie talents of Antonio Giovinazzi. It looked like a strong strategy for success in 2019.

In fact the progress has been minimal. While they scored nine points more than last year they still finished in the same place in the standings, and actually fell further behind those teams ahead. A large proportion of their points came from a single race (Brazil), and they lost out on a double top ten success in Germany due to penalties for using driver aids at the start.

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Alfa Romeo Racing with Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA) Alfa Romeo Racing on the drivers parade.

Head-to-head

  • Kimi Raikkonen: P12, 43 points
  • Antonio Giovinazzi: P17, 14 points

You’d expect the experienced Kimi Raikkonen to come out on top in any comparison of the Alfa Romeo drivers, and you’d be entirely correct. The Finn secured 43 (75%) of the team’s championship points. Along the way he beat Giovinazzi in qualifying on 13 occasions, and 14 times in final race classifications.

But that rather hides the underlying trend. Giovinazzi was essentially a rookie this season (despite two prior race outings with Sauber at the start of 2017 subbing for an unwell Pascal Wehrlein) and so it was obviously going to take him some time to get used to the car and to racing full time in F1.

Once he did, he was applying increasing pressure on the Finn in the second half of the season. After taking his maiden point in Hungary, he was in the top ten again in Italy and Singapore while Raikkonen was struggling. After Hungary he failed to score at all until Brazil, where he and Giovinazzi claimed their best results of the whole year in fourth and fifth respectively.

Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA) Alfa Romeo Racing C38.

Looking to the future

It’s looking harder and harder for Alfa Romeo to find a way off the plateau on which they currently find themselves. Nor can we see where the necessary inspiration is going to come from, with Frédéric Vasseur perhaps taking too much upon himself in a sparse management structure following the in-house promotion of chief aerodynamicist Jan Monchaux to the post of technical director.

Far from providing the team with fresh leadership and direction, the 40-year-old Raikkonen has appreciably waned over the course of the last 12 months. With 312 Grand Prix starts to his name, the Iceman is F1’s senior citizen. But hopefully won’t drive like one in 2020.

While he’s made solid progress over his first full season in F1, Giovinazzi is currently no Leclerc ready to assume the mantle of team leader. It was touch and go whether the team even kept him on for a second season. He’ll need to do much more to prove himself in 2020 now that he’s got some proper experience under his belt.

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F1i Team Reviews for 2019: Williams

We begin our annual F1i review analysing how all ten F1 teams fared in 2019 with Williams, including a look ahead to speculate on what’s likely to be in store for the beleaguered independent next season.

Williams

The team picture

  • Constructors standing: P10, 1 point

Could the midwinter look any bleaker for the hard working Williams team? 2019 has been an absolute shocker, but the signs were right there at the start when they failed to get their new car ready in time to take part in the first few days of pre-season testing in February. Even when they did show up, the mismatched assortment of body components would have been an embarrassment to Frankenstein.

Technical director Paddy Lowe took the fall for that acutely embarrassing episode, but the problems were now ‘baked in’ to the FW42 and there was little that anyone could do about the situation. For the rest of the year, the final car running on track – invariably a lap or more off the leaders – would be a Williams.

The team just managed to avoid the ignominy of finishing the season pointless and has to be praised for some good reliability. But it was still a very sad state of affairs for the team that was once home to the likes of Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna. And not forgetting Pastor Maldonado of course.

©Williams

Head-to-head

  • Robert Kubica: P19, 1 point
  • George Russell: P20, 0 points

In almost all respects, Williams had the most one-sided team mate battle on the grid. George Russell whitewashed Robert Kubica 21-0 in qualifying, and by a whopping average margin of 0.57s. However neither driver was able to make it into Q2 in 2019: the nearest Russell got was in Hungary where he missed out on progressing by just half a tenth. In the races themselves, the rookie beat his team mate 17-3 with both drivers failing to finish in Russia.

But balanced against that, it was Kubica who proved responsible for 100% of Williams’ entire season tally … of a single championship point. It was one of only three times the Pole finished ahead of Russell, on this occasion by a slender margin of 1.5s in Germany. After crossing the line in 12th place he had the good fortune to be promoted into the points by hefty post-race penalties on both Alfa Romeo drivers, leaving Russell out in the cold in 11th. So close!

Looking to the future

We confess: we’re very worried about Williams. Given the depth of their performance woes in 2019, you’d have thought they would have prioritised building up their technical team over the course of the year. Instead there’s been no replacement announced for Lowe, while vague assurances that the iconic Sir Patrick Head would be popping into Grove every now and then to keep an eye on things didn’t seem nearly enough to tackle the growing sense of malaise and inertia.

At least Nicholas Latifi will provide some fresh energy in the cockpit and keep Russell on his toes. However Williams may find themselves missing Kubica’s experience and highly regarded technical acumen – not to mention all that corporate sponsorship money he brought in.

Unless Williams is keeping a surprise well hidden under its racing overalls, we fear that 2020 might achieve the seemingly impossible – and actually prove to be even worse for the once-mighty constructor than 2019.

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