After finishing sixth last year, Alfa Romeo started the season with big goals. But it became clear to officials early on that it would be very difficult to score points regularly with the Sauber C43. After a weak start, the decision was made to part ways with CTO Jan Munschau at the beginning of June. James Key was brought back as a substitute.
The former head of McLaren Development has been back in his office at Henwell since September. He is mainly focused on working on the 2024 model. Chief engineer Xevi Pujolar hopes that this trend will finally change: “We expect the next car to be a big step forward. It is urgently needed. Otherwise we will remain where we are now.”
Onboarding experience in Singapore
As Pujolar revealed at Suzuka, Kei must also keep an eye on the current car to see if a positive impact can be achieved through smaller changes. The major promotion in Singapore is approved before the new employee takes up his position. The increase was not yet noticeable in the first two uses with the package.
The engineers had big plans, especially for Singapore. The car loves heat and slow corners. In fact, it should have felt really comfortable on the winding street circuit. “We had problems getting everything together, mainly because of the special design of the track. We couldn’t find any grip,” Pujolar admitted.
Out of desperation, the technicians decided to change the setup of Cho’s car after qualifying and starting from the pit lane. According to Pujolar, this was a step in the right direction. Accordingly, the weekend at Suzuka got off to a good start. “Things went so well in FP3 that we at least saw the possibility of qualifying for Q2 – and maybe even Q3.”
Drivers make mistakes in Suzuka qualifying
But even though the engineers didn’t change anything during the test break, in the end they only moved out of starting positions 16 and 19. This time the drivers made a mistake: “In the decisive round, Valtteri could not repeat his time from FP3 in the first sector. Cho made a mistake in turn nine. That was it. The potential was there, but we have to complete the track.” “We can also pull it together when it matters,” Pujolar said angrily.
Zhou apologized to the engineers: “A car in front of me ran into dirty air. Then I skidded on the grass. Otherwise I would have easily reached Q2. From there it would have been a different story of the race.” But from the beginning, the number zero was inevitable for the Swiss team. He was already eleventh in the sixteenth race.
Valtteri Bottas faced Alex Albon at the start. It was then torpedoed by Logan Sargeant. After seven laps it was over for the Finn. Guanyu Zhou was hit by a huge piece of carbon during the starting phase and had to dig in to make repairs. From behind, the Chinese reached 13th place. “The pace of the race was really good,” the driver said at the finish. “We were faster than AlphaTauri. Maybe even than Aston Martin.”
Last minute upgrades for the C43
Engineers are optimistic about the upcoming races. Unless something happens again, the points should be resolved at some point. “The upgrade works. The car is faster. We can see that in the data. But the rate of development for other teams in the midfield is also very high. With the gaps so close, you can never tell exactly where you are. This is always changing.” Pujolar says.
Alfa Romeo is fortunate that the competition has only collected small points – if any – in the last few races. However, the Spaniard looks at his opponents with concern: “Alpha Tauri is getting stronger. Albon is constantly performing well. Haas can also deliver fast laps – at least in qualifying. Alpine is also in the music. We have to make sure of that.” “We are doing well in the playoffs.” “Be at the front of this group if we want to score points. Unfortunately that didn’t work at Suzuka.”
While most competitors have already exhausted their upgrade powder, Hinwil’s development department wants to add a few more parts in the upcoming races. “We can’t stop now. We will make further improvements in the next few races – maybe even Las Vegas. If we don’t keep the pressure, we could lose seventh place outright. But that’s still our goal.” Pujolar said.
The 2024 model should not suffer a last-minute facelift for the C43: “What we learn now will also help us next year. Development for 2024 is already well underway. If there is something we can still use with the current one, if we can use model, we’ll do it again.”
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