Alfa Romeo can perhaps lay claim to having made the biggest step forward of all the teams on the grid in 2021, according to team principal Frederic Vasseur.
A number of teams have made clear gains since last season, with Red Bull now on a par with Mercedes and Ferrari sitting third in the constructors’ championship after finishing sixth last year. Despite Alfa Romeo only having two points compared to the eight it managed in 2020, Vasseur believes the improvements the team has made relative to those at the front have been going unnoticed.
“As a team, we have made a really big step forward from last season to this: perhaps the biggest among all teams on the grid,” Vasseur said. “The data speaks for itself – just looking at qualifying, the average gap we have from pole position went down by more or less a percentage point, while in the race we have made also significant progress, above half a percentage point.
“In such a close grid, that’s a big jump forward, and I think we’re not done yet delivering the full potential of our package.
“The whole entirety of the C41 is working better than its predecessor, and it would be unfair to point to a single element to give credit for the progression we have made: the power unit has made a big step forward, of course, but we have improved every aspect of our car, and the result is visible on track.”
Vasseur believes that with a bit of luck his team would be in the fight with AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and Alpine for fifth in the constructors’ championship, rather than 37 points adrift following Pierre Gasly’s podium in Baku.
“A lot of it is down to circumstances,” he said. “Our rivals have all had one or two ‘big scoring’ races, which we haven’t had yet – perhaps our luck will change soon. There have obviously also been some specific instances in which we could and should have done better – an issue with Antonio’s stop in Bahrain, when he was running in the points; Kimi’s crash in Portugal.
“But in many cases, it’s been something outside our control. Antonio’s race in Spain was ruined when the FIA Marshalling system mistakenly prevented him from catching up with the pack, or when we lost two points we had scored with Kimi in Imola due to a controversial penalty, in a race when Antonio’s race was also destroyed by a loose visor strip getting lodged in the brake ducts.
“Issues like these really put the pressure on delivering the perfect session every time, as there is no room for mistakes when the margins are so tight. We need to keep working to improve all that is under our control – and then what is down to luck will hopefully take care of itself.”