After two poor seasons in Formula 1, Alfa Romeo has emerged from the doldrums.
Across 2020 and 2021, it accumulated 21 points, finishing eighth of 10 teams in the constructors’ championship two years ago and ninth last season.
After the fourth race this year, it had already surpassed that total.
“It’s good for us,” said Frédéric Vasseur, the team principal. “We are going in the right direction, and we are improving our performance.
“At one stage we will probably struggle with the development and the budget, but we have to take the points when they are on the table, and so far, we have done pretty well.”
The team, born from an alliance with Sauber at the end of 2017, has a prestigious name that dates from Formula 1’s start in 1950, when it took the top three positions in the driver championship, but it is one of the smallest on the grid with 500 people.
Although the teams are operating with a budget cap of $140 million this season, Alfa Romeo has to carefully manage its finances despite interest from new partners following its good start.
“We are making huge progress in terms of sponsors; we are receiving emails each week,” Vasseur said. “But we will have to stop development earlier than some other teams, which is something we knew before the season started.”
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The introduction this season of new aerodynamic regulations designed to make the cars more competitive has led to an improvement in the team’s results.
Another was the arrival of the driver Valtteri Bottas from Mercedes. He has scored 38 of the team’s 39 points.
“From the beginning of the season, he has done the perfect job,” Vasseur said. “His value to the team is much more than what he does inside the car.
“At the factory, he is always thinking about the team rather than himself, trying to get the best from the 500 people by going onstage and speaking to everybody because he is convinced he needs to be part of the motivation.”
Vasseur knew a move away from Mercedes, where Bottas was the teammate to Lewis Hamilton for five years, was right.
“We have had a friendship for 15 years,” he said. “I don’t want to criticize Mercedes because they are eight-time constructors’ champions, but he was always in the shadow of Lewis.
“I was convinced he would be a different guy in becoming a team leader, and he is looking in this direction.”
Bottas said he was having fun at Alfa Romeo. “Since we started the season with points in the first race, what I’ve been really enjoying is the progress we’ve been able to make together as a team,” he said.
“We’re definitely not falling back, and that is a motivation for us to push on. I’m really, really enjoying the ride.”
After scoring a point on his debut in Bahrain, his teammate Zhou Guanyu has been unlucky.
Zhou finished 11th in the next two races in Saudi Arabia and Australia before crashing on the opening lap of the sprint race that set the grid for the Grand Prix at Imola and retiring in Miami with a water leak.
“It’s not too bad to have this bad luck at the beginning of the season,” said Zhou, who has a one-year contract. “It’s just a matter of turning things around in midseason and end of the season when it matters the most.”
An announcement of whether to continue the Alfa Romeo-Sauber alliance is expected in July, but Vasseur said both sides were “more than happy with the situation so far.”
“The TV coverage of the team is more than double compared to last year, results are improving, the image of the team is improving and maybe we are starting something,” he said.
Michael Andretti, the former racecar driver, was close to a deal to buy the team at the end of last year before it fell through.
“We have made decent steps forward over the last couple of years, but not with the target to sell something, but to improve the level of the team, which is what we have done,” Vasseur said.