Alfa well-placed for 2022 reward even as 2021 risk backfires

Alfa Romeo knew sacrificing 2021 in order to prioritize next year’s new regulations would be a risk, and team principal Frederic Vasseur hopes losing out to Williams this year will prove to be worth it.

Williams had the slowest car in 2020 but has developed a better package for this season and took advantage of its opportunities in Hungary, Belgium and Italy to score 22 points and move comfortably clear of Alfa Romeo in the fight for eighth in the constructors’ championship. That’s a risk Vasseur knew he was taking by giving up on 2021 early, but there are other areas he hopes the team has progressed.

“(We made) the decision very early to stop (developing for) 2021,” Vasseur told RACER. “We knew that the risk was there to lose a position in the championship if something happened, and something happened. Even if we were faster than Williams in qualifying overall in the season, we missed one or two opportunities and it was when the good points were there.

“But we took the decision at the end of last year to go for 2022. I perhaps personally underestimated the fact that it’s quite difficult to go on track with no updates from a human side! But it is like it is. We are focused more on track preparation, and I think it makes sense. As you saw in Monza, we are making some progress, and I think that’s also coming from track operation. This was an important step for us – tire management and so on – and we did a decent step.”

But as Vasseur points out, he’s not alone in hoping next season will deliver a big step forward. Every team views the new regulations as an opportunity, but Vasseur believes Alfa Romeo’s position regarding the budget cap could prove a strength.

“We all want to achieve next year and we all want to get results,” he said. “If you’re asking the question to Otmar (Szafnauer), Franz Tost, Zak Brown, Jost (Capito) or Guenther (Steiner); everybody will tell you that we want to do – and will do  a better job next year. Hopefully! This is the DNA of F1, and this is the competition. Some teams took the decision to stop 2021 very early and focus on 2022, and I think we were probably the first ones.

“The other aspect of the discussion is the cost cap. We are playing in our field. We won’t make any restrictions on the budget next year – we’ll even increase the budget, and put the team in better condition when some other teams will have to reduce, and it will be the first time the car will be developed under the cost cap situation. I consider this as an opportunity, but it’s an opportunity for a couple of teams and we will have one world champion, one second, one third and one P10. Nothing is guaranteed.

“It’s a mega challenge. We know perfectly well in the past that in the past the big change of regulations was also a big opportunity for some teams but it was also a big drama for some others.”