Following a strong Spanish Grand Prix, in which Alfa’s car excelled in Barcelona’s slow final sector, the Hinwil team headed to Monaco with high expectations.
But Monaco was close to a disaster as Valtteri Bottas had to sit out most of FP1 and he and Zhou Guanyu then qualified 12th and 20th respectively.
Bottas managed ninth after a chaotic rain race, but the team admitted it had gone in the wrong direction with the mechanical set-up of the car, and due to its lack of track time it found out too late to rectify the situation.
Baku was another track with a lot of low-speed corners than Alfa Romeo was hoping to rebound at, but it still underperformed in qualifying with Zhou 14th and Bottas 15h.
While Bottas suffered a mysterious loss of pace from Saturday onwards and Zhou fell victim to Fernando Alonso’s Q1 antics, the Chinese driver’s excellent race until he retired with cooling issues showed that the team did recoup its Barcelona form to some degree, even if the results don’t show it.
Alfa Romeo’s head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar explained the team’s Monaco problems are solved and said its qualifying issues in Baku should be seen in a different light.
Alfa has been struggling to get Pirelli’s softest compound, the C5, to switch on in qualifying, which has made it harder for Bottas and Zhou to extract the ultimate performance from the car and translate it into a representative grid result.
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Photo by: Alfa Romeo
“In Monaco, we had some difficulties, but that was different,” Pujolar explained.
“We changed the configuration of the car and if you see what the level of performance we have with Zhou – because with Valtteri we’ve had something different – then we can say that the problems from Monaco were gone.”
When asked by Autosport to explain the team’s C5 tyre issues, he said: “Here some competitors are able to extract more performance on the first timed lap and for us on the first timed lap we are struggling more.”
“We are putting more on the second push lap. This is something that we were working on, and I think we are getting there in Q2 but then we’ve got to make more progress.
“I think for Montreal we don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t be on top of it. But the problems from Monaco, they are gone.”
Hinwil is still investigating what Bottas called a “fundamental issue” which tanked his performance when he switched to Alfa Romeo’s new configuration on Saturday, running with the old kit in Friday practice to save parts. The team will change as many parts as possible in Canada to eliminate the underlying issue.