F1 2023 | Alfa Romeo | A stalling of progress for the Hinwil-based team

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2023 has been less than stellar for Alfa Romeo up to this point, despite promising results during the course of the 2022 season and positive comments from both drivers before pre season testing.

Guanyu Zhou's Alfa Romeo C43 on track in Miami
Photo credit: @alfaromeostake

2022 was a year of celebration for Alfa Romeo, closing out the season with a haul of 55 points and claiming P6 in the constructors’ championship. The team seems unlikely to match this feat however as they have struggled to consistently threaten the points positions in 2023, despite a positive outlook prior to testing.

High hopes:

“I’m confident it’s going to be definitely better than last year…”

Alfa Romeo came into the 2023 season with high hopes as both Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu seemingly impressed by the improvements in both reliability and high speed rear stability. Speaking after testing in February, Bottas commented that the team had “stepped up” ahead of the new season, seemingly inspiring confidence in the Finnish driver.

“I feel like we’ve stepped up as a team in terms of the quality of the car,” Bottas noted in February. “We have had fewer issues by this point. Last year, testing wasn’t so much fun, so we’re in a good place after three days.”

“Now, it seems quite clear the improvement we were able to do…”

Teammate Zhou echoed Bottas’ assessment, explaining the team were able to combat their issues last season and spend the winter break regaining the lost performance.

The team’s confidence seemed well placed, with Bottas taking home 4 points and a P8 finish from Bahrain. Despite the team’s positive start and high hopes, a lack of consistent pace sees them sat in P8 with just 6 points (the additional two coming from Zhou in Australia), after round 5 in Miami.

Last minute change & future uncertainty:

“As I prepare to bring my adventure at Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN to an end, I can look back fondly at these six years together…” –

Perhaps the lack of consistency in performance from Alfa Romeo is down to a change in management. With the announcement of long term team principal Fred Vasseur’s departure from Alfa Romeo to take on the head role at Ferrari coming in December, it’s entirely possible this upheaval has affected the team.

Having joined the team in 2017, Vasseur has led the Swiss outfit, then known as Sauber, upwards from last and slowest to a point where they were fighting well into the midfield last season. His departure has no doubt affected the team which he has helped to rebuild.

The gap left by Vasseur as team principal was also not filled in a like for like fashion. Andreas Seidl, formerly of McLaren, stepped in as CEO while managing director of the Sauber Group Alessandro Alunni Bravi took up the newly introduced role of team representative. This change of management structure is a direct result of Alfa Romeo’s intentions to leave the team, with Audi planning to take over from 2026.

Such a drastic change, not only of managers, but also of overall structure will always have knock-on affects and teething problems, possibly causing Alfa Romeo’s slow start in 2023.

Teammate battle:

Despite Bottas having much more Formula 1 experience in comparison to teammate Zhou, the two drivers have been fairly evenly matched thus far in 2023. Of the 5 races so far, Bottas has bested Zhou 3/2 in both qualifying and race results.

The two drivers points totals of 4 to Bottas and 2 to Zhou do not tell the whole story however, as the two teammates are often not far from each other on track as their results comparisons may suggest. Zhou has performed well against his much more experienced teammate, quickly getting up to speed this season and pushing Bottas, leading to both drivers performing at a very high level.