Thursday, February 11, 2021

1 Racing Mind’s Formula 1 Season Ending Team Report Card: Alfa Romeo Racing

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/ LAT Images/ Pirelli


Team Grade: C-

Overall Season: 

The former Sauber Formula 1 team’s second year operating under the persona of Alfa Romeo Racing has been deep disappointment. Scoring 57 points in the Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship for the 2019 season after 13 top-10 finishes, the squad collected just 8 points 2020 in 5 top-10 results. Although the 2020 schedule contained four fewer events than the previous season’s calendar, Alfa Romeo Racing’s deteriorating performance this past season was also clear on the track. In qualifying, team drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi settled with an average placement of 16.8 before accounting for grid penalties.

Alfa Romeo Racing’s partnership with Ferrari has been alluded to by observers as the reason for the lackluster 2020 campaign. The Ferrari power unit performance deficit in competition was viewed as an anchor to Alfa Romeo Racing as well as Haas F1 Team and specifically Scuderia Ferrari throughout the year. 

The driver lineup for the team consisting of 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen and Italian Antonio Giovinazzi performed decently throughout the 2020 season with the failings of the Ferrari-powered C39 race car. By the end of the year, both the highly-experienced Raikkonen and Giovinazzi who were running in his second full-time Formula 1 campaign gathered four points apiece. 


Achievements During 2020 Season:

Gaining points in just 4 of the 17 grand prix events on the 2020 Formula 1 calendar, Alfa Romeo Racing team’s top 10 result at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a particular high moment in a fairly lowly season. At the end of the 63-lap event on Italy’s Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari commonly recognized as Imola, the cars draped in Alfa Romeo colours flew to a double-point scoring finish. Electing to use a single pit stop plan for both cars, the execution involved contrasting strategies. Finishing ninth, Kimi Raikkonen’s #7 machine started on medium compound tires and waited until lap 48 to take on soft compound Pirelli rubber. The #99 car of Antonio Giovinazzi left the race grid on soft compound Pirelli tires but pitted to receive medium compound tires on lap 10. 

Though the team technically competes under Sauber’s Swiss flag, Alfa Romeo Racing’s most successful run for the 2020 season coming at an Italian race would have provided an extra sense of thrill with the accomplishment. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

Lacking engine power and finding no other significant advantage to overcome it, Alfa Romeo Racing faced trouble scoring top 10 finishes throughout 2020. Although the team’s C39 race cars were mechanically reliable with a total of five race retirements between their two entrants, they were non-factors in a number of grand prix events. 

While Alfa Romeo Racing’s pit road strategy call paid off with points at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, their plan at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza was a major miss. For what was a chaotic event, both Alfa Romeo cars were running in the top-five aided by the opportune deployment of a safety car early in the event. Another safety car quickly turning into a red flag period brought forth after Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari crashed proved costly for Antonio Giovinazzi when the team pitted the #99 while the pit road was closed. Running second for a brief time when racing resumed after the red flag, Kimi Raikkonen faded as his soft compound tires wore falling to what would be a 13th place finish.  

Team Drivers

#7 Kimi Raikkonen: B-

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/ LAT Images/ Pirelli

Overall Season: 

Turning 41 years old in October of 2020, Kimi Raikkonen is defying conventions in modern Formula 1 that favours younger pilots. As the 2007 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion, the Finnish competitor first competed in the series in 2001 after barely qualifying for the sport’s Super License due to limited car racing experience. Raikkonen suited up to run his 18th season on the tour competing for a second season with the Alfa Romeo Racing team realizing that the squad may lack race-winning prowess of previous teams such as Ferrari and McLaren but eager to keep fighting for grand prix honours. 

In 2020, Kimi Raikkonen claimed a pair of Formula 1 records related to his endurance in the sport. Raikkonen’s 323rd start in the series the Eifel Grand Prix game him the recognition for being the driver with the most Formula 1 starts. The Finnish driver also gained the top honour for having the most grand prix entries. Secured to race for Alfa Romeo Racing for 2021, Kimi Raikkonen is set to place the mark higher. 

On a competitive front, the Finnish endured a rather difficult 2020 season with an outmatched race car. Raikkonen accomplished scoring points in his #7 Alfa Romeo Racing car twice over the course of 17 races.

Achievements During 2020 Season:

Though the season was limited in success, Kimi Raikkonen was provided with a few opportunities to remind his fellow competitors as well as other race observers that he still has hunger that led to his 2007 Formula 1 championship. 

The veteran Finnish pilot for Alfa Romeo Racing would end two grand prix events in ninth place. The first came as Raikkonen survived the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello slotting between the Ferraris driven by Charles Leclerc and former teammate Sebastian Vettel. His second point-scoring finish was part of a double-point scoring effort by his race team at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. In the second effort, Raikkonen ran until lap 48 on medium compound tires before making his one and only pit stop in the event.

Raikkonen would crack the top-10 in qualifying once during the 2020 season under tricky driving conditions on the weekend of the Turkish Grand Prix. The #7 car would place 8th on the grid after the Q3 session concluded.

Although he would ultimately finish an unremarkable 13th place, Kimi Raikkonen and his Alfa Romeo Racing team staged an amusing showing during the middle stage of the Italian Grand Prix on the Monza track. Following the second standing start in the race, the Finnish driver and his #7 Alfa Romeo C39 race car ran in second place for several laps before his soft compound Pirelli tires wore out.  

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

Though Kimi Raikkonen competed valiantly in 2020, the year on the track was a mostly miserable outing. Scoring just four points in the drivers’ standings after 17 races, Raikkonen’s season-ending tally is the worst in his Formula 1 career (this includes the Finnish driver entered Formula 1 in 2001 when only the top-six finishers in a grand prix received points).

Suffering only one retirement during the season in the opening round in Austria, Kimi Raikkonen spent the large portion of the year finishing well out of the points in a lackluster C39 race car. Qualifying was particularly dreadful for the driver of the #7 Alfa Romeo Racing entry concluding three events as the slowest driver in the initial Q1 session. Though comparing relatively equally to teammate Antonio Giovinazzi’s time trial performances throughout 2020, Raikkonen was out-qualified by the Italian driver of the #99 car 9 times in 17 grand prix events.

#99 Antonio Giovinazzi: C+

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/ LAT Images/ Pirelli

Overall Season: 

For Italy’s Antonio Giovinazzi, 2020 was the sophomore driver’s second full-time season of competition with Alfa Romeo Racing. Giovinazzi entered Formula 1 after climbing the motorsport ladder through junior open wheel series and the occasional sports car start. In 2015, he finished runner-up in the drivers’ standings to current IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The next year, Giovinazzi ran in the GP2 Series and came eight points short of the drivers’ title scored by Pierre Gasly. One of the greatest honours earned by Antonio Giovinazzi was claiming victory at the 2015 Masters of Formula 3 event taking pole and winning ahead of current Williams Racing driver George Russell. 

The Italian’s tenure in Formula 1 has been a mixed affair. Debut for a two-race stint with the Sauber F1 Team in 2017, Giovinazzi’s only full season in the sport prior to the 2020 season concluded with just four top-10 finishes over 21 races last year. A fifth place scored in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix remains his best result in the series. The 2020 season was a struggle for the 27-year-old Italian as he competed with the Alfa Romeo Racing team’s uncompetitive race car.  

Achievements During 2020 Season:

Finishing in the points in three grand prix events during the 2020 season, Antonio Giovinazzi’s best result was ninth place at the Austrian Grand Prix. 

However, as a driver competing under the Italian flag, Giovinazzi’s tenth place finish at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola likely served as a great moment over the 17-round Formula 1 calendar. “I am really happy for the team’s result and, of course, for scoring points in my home Grand Prix. It has been a very strong race, especially starting from last place, and finishing in the top ten really was the most we could do.” said Giovinazzi in a post-race Alfa Romeo press release following the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. 

Advancing into the Q3 session in qualifying one time at the Turkish Grand Prix, Antonio Giovinazzi’s performance in Saturday time trials often outpaced his more experienced teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

In what is a relatively short Formula 1 career, Antonio Giovinazzi has been involved in some spectacular crashes. In his second-ever time behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car for the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Giovinazzi crashed twice in qualifying and during the race. The Italian driver fortunately walked away from both accidents on that weekend in China.

At the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix, Antonio Giovinazzi experienced another hard wreck in his career. During the race on the fast Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the driver of the #99 Alfa Romeo Racing C39 race car slipped exiting turn 14 on lap 10 crashing into track retaining wall. A wheel/tire assembly from Giovinazzi’s car flew into the path of Williams Racing entrant George Russell leading to his race retirement. Both drivers were unhurt and walked out of their machines. 

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