Earlier than System 1 signed off for its summer season break, Valtteri Bottas hoped the Hungarian Grand Prix would ship a message to his Alfa Romeo staff. It did. Simply not the one Bottas meant.
An extended-awaited ground and diffuser improve in Hungary marked Alfa Romeo’s first main improvement for a number of races. Bottas felt it was no coincidence that he promptly secured his first top-10 qualifying consequence since Could’s Spanish Grand Prix – paradoxically the earlier race at which the automobile had a major improve.
“That was good to be in Q3 after fairly a while,” Bottas mentioned after qualifying on the Hungaroring, the place he ended a run of six races with out such an look. “And I actually assume it’s because of the upgrades that we had.
“Should you can acquire one or two tenths from the automobile it clearly makes a giant distinction within the midfield.”
The upgraded Alfa Romeo had extra aerodynamic load, “primarily within the mid-corner of all speeds” with a acquire of as much as two tenths of a second, based on Bottas. He reckoned team-mate Zhou Guanyu would have joined him in Q3 in Hungary if he had the updates as nicely, additional highlighting how “essential” the developments are.
These had been all very encouraging noises from the Alfa Romeo camp. Extra importantly, although, Bottas wished to show it right into a factors end within the last race earlier than the shutdown. He felt Alfa Romeo, which isn’t working on the price cap and has been extra modest with its developments in comparison with midfield rivals, wanted a lift.
“It might be a superb instance for the entire staff that after we deliver new bits to this automobile, that’s the key to preserving us combating for the highest 10 and within the factors,” he mentioned.
As an alternative, although, the Hungarian GP despatched one other message to Alfa Romeo – and it was a really acquainted one. Simply when Bottas thought the staff was about to right one key 2022 limitation (an absence of improvement), an equally massive limitation (reliability) bit him onerous.
The deja vu was palpable: a 3rd retirement of the season for Bottas and seventh for Alfa Romeo throughout its two vehicles. Throw into that an astonishing variety of automobile issues in Friday follow classes for Bottas and there’s a reasonably concrete case for the Alfa Romeo C42 being F1 2022’s most unreliable automobile.
“The place we most likely have suffered most is normally is reliability, the place we had a number of setbacks,” says technical director Jan Monchaux.
“It’s one thing which has highest precedence for us to type out, and ensure we may give a automobile for each driver to allow them to run all of the classes and likewise brings a automobile residence on Sunday.
“As a result of we left loads of factors on the tracks this season and that’s fairly annoying.”
Poor reliability undermines even the quickest automobile. And the Alfa Romeo is clearly fast – when it isn’t falling behind rivals which can be creating higher.
On stability the Alfa Romeo has been the sixth-fastest automobile, a good 0.24% behind midfield benchmarks Alpine and McLaren. However it began the season faster than each, with a automobile that regarded well-refined and was most likely lighter than its instant rivals, and fading from that place is a disappointment.
“I can’t use the phrase too simply – we’re happy with the premise, nevertheless it’s additionally in regards to the improvement through the season,” says Monchaux.
“Our rivals should not sleeping, so it’s about additionally bringing updates and bringing updates all inside the price cap, which is sort of an attention-grabbing train.”
Alfa Romeo’s final improve earlier than Hungary was in Spain, the place even with a compromised technique Bottas turned seventh on the grid into sixth on the end. It’s nonetheless his second-best results of the season.
At that time Bottas was having fun with an excellent first season with Alfa Romeo and his run of outcomes was very spectacular: sixth, DNF (whereas on for sixth), eighth, fifth, seventh, sixth. He scored 38 factors and was eighth within the drivers’ championship, proper behind McLaren’s Lando Norris and forward of each Alpine drivers.
He’s scored simply eight factors within the seven races since then, though profligacy elsewhere within the midfield means he’s nonetheless ninth within the championship. Nonetheless, one among F1’s biggest feel-good tales from early 2022 has pale dramatically from view.
Alfa Romeo will care about that lots lower than the missed factors. It has a chance to cement sixth within the championship, which might be the Sauber operation’s finest end of the hybrid period and highest putting since 2012. However the message from Bottas for the second half of the season is obvious.
He admitted in Hungary that previous to shedding energy, he was already falling away from the factors due to poor technique, so it’s not like reliability price him an important consequence there – prefer it did in Saudi Arabia and Britain. However that was the smallest of consolations.
“For certain we’re missing in reliability,” Bottas mentioned. “By way of tempo, we had been a bit higher this weekend than within the earlier races, in order that’s constructive however sure, we do want to complete the races.
“The tempo has been there however not constantly, so we have to carry on engaged on that, however it could have been an excellent higher disgrace if we had been about to attain factors once more and we had the problem.
“So, excessive concentrate on reliability first after which on efficiency as nicely.”
Alfa Romeo has been attempting to handle the previous all season, however the vary of issues cropping up – cooling, hydraulics, gearbox, water pump, energy unit – point out that neither Sauber nor its engine accomplice Ferrari is totally on prime of every part.
Bottas would possibly take some solace from the very fact Alfa Romeo is planning additional developments, although. Although this has been a giant rebound from 2022, the staff doesn’t sound like it’s settling for sixth place.
McLaren and Alpine are fairly a approach forward – 44 and 48 factors respectively – however Monchaux is bullish that on outright efficiency Alfa Romeo can goal these groups.
“I’d hope we will spoil the get together of the orange and blue guys,” he says, “and be there to even have a phrase to say up till the top of the season.
“We’re solely at halftime. It’s a matter of now being constant, bringing updates.
“From the pure tempo of the automobile, we will go and problem these guys. However the midfield is so tight, you may simply find yourself at the back of Q2 and even not previous Q1: 4 tenths is basically, actually tight.
“It’s going to wish a flawless train for the remainder of the season if we actually wish to go and problem the upper positions.”
Up to now, Alfa Romeo’s season has been removed from that customary. Addressing that will probably be a giant take a look at of its present capabilities and its longer-term ambitions.