Alfa Romeo 2021 line-up to be decided this month

Alfa Romeo principal Fred Vasseur expects a decision on the team’s 2021 driver line-up to be reached this month.

After starting strong in 2019 the team have been on a slow decline since, and after eleven rounds of the 2020 season Alfa Romeo have only 5 points in the Constructors’ Championship.

Three of them have been scored by Antonio Giovinazzi, but strong rumours exist stating that he will lose his seat for 2021.

Veteran Kimi Raikkonen is expected to continue with the team, while current F2 Championship leader Mick Schumacher is expected to fill the second Alfa seat for 2021.

And Vasseur confirmed that a decision would have to be reached in October.

Speaking to Autosport, Vasseur said: “I think it was last Friday that I told you that it would be in the next few weeks.

“I think that in the course of October we have to take a decision to be relaxed about this for the last four events.”

Schumacher was set to take part in FP1 at the Eifel Grand Prix for Alfa Romeo, but rain and fog meant that no running could take place at the Nurburgring on that Friday.

“It’s a pity and for everybody, mainly for Mick,” Vasseur explained.

“He was very committed, he went to the factory last week, he worked very hard with the engineers, he did a good preparation for the FP1, and then happened what’s happened.

“For sure it’s a shame. But I think at least he took something from the preparation.”

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Vasseur made it clear that if Schumacher had have taken part in FP1 then it wouldn’t have been ultimate lap time which the team would have been focusing on.

“When a driver is giving up FP1 to someone else, the first approach is to avoid crashes, and damage the FP2. So we are asking them to stay a bit calm,” he said.

“And then you can’t judge them on the lap time, that would be unfair.

“But it’s more on the approach, on the way that they are picking up the pace during the FP1, and on the feedback that they are able to give to the team.

“Because if you are speaking about pace, you have more to trust what he’s doing in F2 than the 10 laps that he’s doing in FP1.

“As a team it’s the only way we could have to judge the attitude, the relationship that he’s been able to build up with the team and the technical feedback.”

However, with feedback key, another FP1 outing for Schumacher will be difficult thanks to the unfamiliar circuits which lay ahead for Formula 1, such as this weekends’ Portuguese Grand Prix.

Also at the two-day Emilia Romagna Grand Prix there will be no FP1.

“It’s not so easy because at Portimao everybody will have to learn the track, and it’s not the best place to give the FP1, and then Imola it’s without FP1,” Vasseur explained.

“Then we have to go to Istanbul. We have to sit down and discuss with Antonio, but it’s not the easiest one now, I think. And he [Schumacher] has the two events in Bahrain that he’s racing in F2.”

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Kubica not using 'cheap excuses' to explain 2019 flop

Robert Kubica says he won’t offer any ‘cheap excuses’ for why his 2019 Formula 1 comeback proved to be such a crushing disappointment.

The 35-year-old Pole was out of the sport for eight seasons after suffering life-changing injuries from an off-season rallying accident at the start of 2011.

He was eventually able to make his F1 return with Williams in 2019, but the overall poor performance of the car meant that he was firmly stuck at the back of the grid for the entire campaign.

While he did pick up one championship point with an opportunistic top ten finish in Germany, his performances generally compared poorly with his rookie team mate George Russell.

But Kubica didn’t want to blame the injuries to his right arm for how the campaign turned out, even though they had meant that he was having to drive “70 per cent left-handed” all season.

“Sometimes we want to make people believe that Formula 1 is simple, but it is not,” he told Motorsport.com. “There are a lot of factors which have a big influence on the final result.

“One of the factors which is not a big influence is actually my limitations in high-speed [sections],” he stated, adding that the car’s handling issues had been a far bigger factor overall.

“When you lack the grip, it is normal that you lose more in more challenging areas,” he pointed out. “Also you lose more when you have two, three corners in a row than only one corner or a straight line.

“This is something where I’m sure my limitations are not influencing my driving, on this type of area.”

He also dismissed suggestions that his problems had been linked to the tricky 2019 tyre compounds.

“I see that as a cheap excuse for an unsuccessful season,” Kubica insisted. “I think I am clever enough and good enough to understand what I should do with the tyres.

“Of course, ultimately it is the driver who is driving the car. But we have exactly the same targets and exactly the same things operationally regarding the tyres,” he said. “[However] it’s not a driver which is choosing which way to go and how the tyres should operate, it’s still teamwork.

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“I have my opinions on many areas where I definitely could have done better,” he continued. “There were occasions where I could perform and I did perform well, but they were hidden with some external factors.

“With the circumstances we were in, it was extremely important for me to start the season with a good consistency so I could build up my comeback on this,” he continued. “Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.”

Kubica also suggested that a lack of support and feddback from the team had been an issue, contributing to his decision in September to announce he was quitting Williams at the end of the season.

“There were occasions where I didn’t hear any answer, or I had no idea why we were so underperforming from day to day,” he complained. “This is something which is worse, because in order to improve you need to understand the reasons.

“There’s no point of having a medicine for something which isn’t causing your illness,” he pointed out.

Having made his departure from Williams, Kubica will now serve as reserve driver at Alfa Romeo in support of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi in 2020. He’s also taken part in DTM rookie testing with BMW, but is yet to be confirmed with a seat in the championship.

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Kubica: Alfa Romeo return like ‘coming back home’

Robert Kubica has says his switch to Alfa Romeo is like “coming back home” after returning to his former stomping grounds.

The Polish driver signed with the Hinwil-based outfit as a development driver for 2020, bringing his sponsor Orlen with him as the team rebranded to Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.

2019 was a season to forget for Kubica as he returned to the sport with Williams after an eight-year absence from F1, only to spend the year lapping at the back in a poor FW42.

But now Kubica is back in familiar surroundings having raced for Alfa Romeo under their previous name of BMW Sauber from 2006-09, claiming the only win of his career at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix.

And speaking to fans on the team’s social media channels, Kubica confirmed that he had completed a seat fit in the 2020 car, while saying his return to the team felt like “coming home”.

“I’m here in Hinwil. It’s kind of like coming back home, to where I started my career in Formula 1 in 2006,” he said.

“[It’s] very nice to be back in this environment. I have seen many people with which I worked in the past.

“They have just [completed a] seat fit into the new car, so I’m looking forward not only to drive the car, but to work with the team, so keep your crossed fingers for Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.”

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Vasseur: Alfa Romeo must make better use of opportunities

Alfa Romeo principal Frederic Vasseur says that his team must do better to exploit any opportunities that arise on track during “chaotic’ races in 2020.

The team had its chances last season, only to see them slip away on several occasions leaving them stuck in eighth place in the final constructors championship standings.

“The season could have been completely different,” Vasseur told Motorsport.com. this week. “But that’s true for all ten teams.”

Kimi Raikkonen finished in the top ten in the opening four races of the year, including Baku where he was forced to start from pit lane due to the front wing of his C38 having to be changed under parc ferme conditions.

Antonio Giovinazzi didn’t pick up his maiden championship point until Austria. Both drivers subsequently missed out on points finishes in Germany when the team was hit by a double penalty for using banned driver aids at the start of the race.

“We missed two big opportunities,” Vasseur said. “One in Baku when Antonio had to start from the back and Kimi from the pit lane, then in Hockenheim where we were penalised.

“It would have been a completely different championship,” he pointed out, explaining that without these incidents Alfa could have been 16 points to the better heading into the summer break.

That in itself would have put them on an equal footing with Racing Point for seventh in the championship. Instead, they had to wait for Brazil for their breakthrough performance and best result of the season, with Raikkonen finishing fourth and Giovinazzi right behind in fifth.

“During the season we had three chaotic races: Baku, Hockenheim and Brazil,” Vasseur said, explaining that these had represented Alfa’s best chances of success in 2019 because of a high level of retirements.

“It makes no sense to lead the group if 100 per cent of the cars finish the race, because you score the points for seventh and eighth, or seventh and tenth,” he said. “But if you are the top of the group, and then you have crashes, then you can score 20 points!”

Having squandered those opportunities in the first two races, Alfa’s points haul from Brazil was indeed the single best for any of the ‘midfield’ teams all season long. Only Toro Rosso managed to go a single point better all year at Hockenheim, thanks in large part to Daniil Kvyat’s podium.

Despite everything, Vasseur felt that Alfa had done better last season than was generally appreciated by the fans and the media.

“Sometimes the results you are getting on track is not reflecting the performance or the pace,” he suggested. “On a performance basis I think we did a good job.

“What is important for me is that we closed the gap compared to the leaders drastically compared to last year,” he added.

“It’s a good step forward and we have to do the same [again this year]. We have to keep the same motivation, and so on.”

Alfa heads into the new season with an unchanged driver line-up, despite Vasseur’s admission that Giovinazzi had come close to losing his race seat with a last lap crash in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Robert Kubica has been added to the team’s line-up as reserve driver following his departure from Williams at the end of last season, but is unlikely to get any track time at Grand Prix weekends.

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Alfa Romeo rue missed chances in ‘chaotic’ races

Alfa Romeo would have had a “completely different” 2019 if they took their opportunities in the chaotic races, says team boss Frederic Vasseur.

The Italian outfit enjoyed a strong first half of the season, with Kimi Raikkonen scoring points in each of the first four races and the team finishing in the top 10 in eight of the first 12 races.

Things could have been even better, however. In both Baku and Germany, where incidents provided an opportunity for midfield teams to pick up a strong haul of points, the car looked to have strong pace, but penalties deprived Vasseur and co of capitalising.

“The season could have been completely different, but it’s true for all 10 teams,” Vasseur told Autosport.com.

“We missed two big opportunities, one in Baku when Antonio had to start from the back and Kimi from the pitlane. In Hockenheim, we were penalised.

“It would have been a completely different championship.”

Alfa did, however, take their chance amidst the carnage of Brazil, ending up P4 and P5 to surpass their points total from 2018.

“I think we had during the season three chaotic races: Baku, Hockenheim and Brazil,” Vasseur added.

“It makes no sense to lead the group if 100% of the cars finish the race because you score the points for seventh and eighth, or seventh and 10th.

“If you are the top of the group, and then you have crashes, then you can score 20 points.”

A constant lack of pace in the second half of the season meant the team were never close to winning the midfield battle, finishing P8 in the constructors’ standings. However, Vasseur prefers to focus on the positive fact that they’re now closer to the top of the grid in terms of lap times.

“What is important for me is that we close the gap compared to the leader drastically compared to last year,” he said.

“We were 2.6% off the fastest team on average [in 2018], now we are 1.8 or 1.9%. It’s a good step forward and we have to do the same [in 2020]. We have to keep the same motivation and so on.

“Sometimes the results you are getting on track is not reflecting the performance or the pace. On a performance basis, I think we did a good job.”

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Giovinazzi F1 future was called into question after Spa crash

Alfa Romeo team boss Frédéric Vasseur says that Antonio Giovinazzi’s late crash in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa almost put the Italian’s F1 future in jeopardy.

Giovonazzi endured a difficult first half of 2019, with only a meager P10 finish in Austria to show for his efforts.

However, his fortunes appeared to be set for a turnaround in Belgium where a solid drive by the young Italian had put him on course for a 9th place finish. But a mistake on the penultimate lap quashed that prospect, and his team’s hopes.

“It was a big shock for everybody in the team because it was a good opportunity,” Vasseur told Motorsport.com.

“Antonio came back from nowhere, and on one of the last laps he had the crash.

“We had a tough discussion with Antonio, because these kind of things can decide your career. We were thinking about the future.

“We had to sit down the week after and we had to discuss about the situation, and he had a very good reaction.”

Indeed, despite massive pressure to perform, Giovinazzi made up for the blunder a week later at his home race in Monza where the 26-year-old raced as high as sixth and finished ninth.

The result – which coincided with Alfa’s own upturn in form – impressed Vasseur and went a long way towards securing his future with Alfa Romeo for 2020.

“A lot of pressure, tons of guests, Alfa Romeo’s home race, he had the press conference so plenty of questions about Spa,” remembers Vasseur.

“I think he did a very good job, the pressure was there. In my mind it was very important how Antonio reacted in Monza, that was the real push.

“The issue for Antonio was we were down on performance when he was on top.

“You can be in front of your teammates but [it is noticed less] if it’s for P14 or P15. If it’s sixth or seventh, everyone’s speaking about you.

“One thing is to show to the team and the other one is to score points because for you, for the paddock, everybody is just focused on results.”

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Vasseur: Alfa Romeo in F1 under long-term deal

Alfa Romeo principal Frederic Vasseur has seemingly poured cold water on the Italian car brand exiting F1 in the short-term.

After returning to the series in 2018 to form the Alfa Romeo Sauber team, the brand was tweaked again to be known as Alfa Romeo Racing from 2019.

This deal is more of a sponsorship though with the Sauber personnel continuing to run the team, though there had been talk that Alfa were not sure about sticking around in F1 for much longer.

But Vasseur says this deal is long-term after he had received the blessing of the team’s founder Peter Sauber to go ahead with it.

“When we had the discussion with Alfa Romeo the first one I called on was Peter,” Vasseur told Motorsport.com.

“The reaction of Peter was important for me.

“He said ‘if you think that it’s a good step forward for the team, let’s do it and I will back you on this’. It was an important step for the company.

“It’s a long-term deal with Alfa Romeo and we can only build up something if you have the long-term or mid-term view. You can’t build up something with a project of three months.”

The team finished 2019 P8 in the Constructors’ Championship with 57 points after dropping behind their rivals for performance in the second half of the season, but Vasseur feels they can be happy with their efforts and will use it to be “optimistic” for the future.

“Last year we were coming from absolutely nowhere, and we were very opportunistic during the season,” he explained.

“I would say we scored roughly all the points that we could have scored.

“This season is a bit different, and we are a bit less opportunistic. We missed some of our opportunities.

“But at the end we end the season with more points than last year and it’s a good step. We made a step of 0.7% [in pace] to the top teams, it’s huge.

“We can’t be completely satisfied with this, we need to do more. But I think that we can be optimistic.”

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No Alfa mileage for Schumacher in 2020 – Vasseur

Alfa Romeo team boss Frédéric Vasseur has dismissed awarding any testing mileage to Mick Schumacher in 2020.

As a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, Schumacher was given F1 seat time earlier this year in Bahrain, both with the Scuderia and with Alfa Romeo.

While the Hinwil-based squad remains affiliated with the House of Maranello and the most probable entry point for Schumacher in F1 after his second campaign in Formula 2 in 2020, Vasseur insists there will be no track time allocated to the young German next season.

“There will be no additional tests next year,” Vasseur told Blick’s Roger Benoit.

“First of all, Mick has to win Formula 2 or perform well but that is incredibly difficult given the conditions and the pressure.

“We are following his path and progress,” along with Ferrari.

Alfa has retained both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi for 2020. But there were initially doubts about the latter’s fate because of his late confirmation, a delay which kept Giovinazzi on his toes.

“Ten years ago, the teams wanted to announce their drivers in February,” said Vasseur.

“We were never in a hurry, so we were able to keep up the pressure on the team and on Antonio.”

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Ericsson: The priority is Indycar nat an F1 reserve

Formula 1 exile Marcus Ericsson looks set to take a step further away from the Grand Prix paddocks in 2020 as he commits to his second season Stateside.

This year, the Swede split his time between a full-time Indycar race seat and a reserve role at Alfa Romeo.

After F1’s summer break, Ericsson had to pull out of an Indycar race when Alfa Romeo ordered him to travel to Spa-Francorchamps, for the Belgian Grand Prix, to be on standby to replace an injured Kimi Raikkonen.

But ultimately, Raikkonen raced and Ericsson was left frustrated. So for 2020, Ericsson’s role looks set to change, according to his manager Eje Elgh.

“It took too much time with a lot of travel and so on. From now on, the full focus will be on Indycar,” he told Viasat.

Ericsson, however, told Expressen that he will maintain his links to Alfa Romeo but said of the Spa debacle, “It was a little silly. That’s the problem with social media today, Everything happened very quickly and Alfa Romeo chose not to say anything so it all came out in the wrong way.”

As for 2020, he admits that talks are still taking place, “I have a long relationship with Alfa Romeo and Sauber and I’m pretty sure I will have some part, but I have also said that I really want to focus 100 percent on this Indy season.

“The priority is not to be a reserve driver in Formula 1, the priority is Indycar. But I don’t want to say too much about what it will be because it is complicated, with various different factors. We will see what Alfa Romeo and even what (Indycar team) Ganassi wants,” added Ericsson.


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New Alfa Romeo chassis crashes out of… crash test!

Alfa Romeo Racing’s 2020 development plans may have suffered a set-back after its new chassis failed a mandatory FIA crash test according to a report from Germany.

The test was conducted at the FIA-approved CSI facility in Bollate, near Milan, contends Motorsport-Magazin, where the Hinwil-based squad’s chassis was allegedly destroyed.

All teams must submit their new car to a crash test before they are deemed fit to be used, with stringent evaluations carried out during five dynamic tests and 13 static load tests involving a chassis’ front, side and rear structures.

Motosport-Magazin’s report states that Alfa’s new tub successfully passed the static test at Hinwil but failed its dynamic frontal impact verification in Bollate.

Alfa Romeo’s crews now must work at full speed to timely prepare a second chassis, a burden that could set back the team’s development plans by a few weeks.

All teams must have their new car certified by the FIA ahead of the start of pre-season testing which will begin on February 19 in Barcelona.

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