Alfa Romeo are an iconic name in Formula One and was once a title-winning team. However, recent fortunes have not fallen kindly for the Italian organisation. With two new drivers and a 6th place finish in 2022, this season has been a slump in performance compared to. With only 16 points scored thus far, that is a huge decrease from the 55 scored last year. But why has this happened? Let’s sum it up…
In hindsight, the season didn’t start awfully for Alfa, with points scored in four of the first eight races. A quarter of their 2023 total came in Bahrain on the opening weekend, with Valtteri Bottas crossing the line in 8th place. Zhou Guanyu then finished 9th in Australia and Spain, before Bottas secured a point in Canada. However, much like 2022, the season tailed off to a poor ending. Last season, 51 of their 55 points were scored in the first nine races, when the team had a huge weight advantage over their competitors. Strong starts and weak endings seem to be a common trend.
There has been a lot of potential shown throughout this year, the main problem for the team though has been consistent points finishes. However, coming just outside the top 10 has become a habit. Bottas has five 12th-place finishes this season, and Zhou has two. He also has five 13th-placed finishes. Unfortunately for the team, reaching the points in the second half of the season remained difficult, as they fell towards 9th in the Championship where they would stay for the rest of 2023.
In terms of notable races, Azerbaijan and Las Vegas stuck out like sore thumbs for Alfa. Azerbaijan qualifying was the start of a poor weekend for them, with Zhou not making it out of Q1, and Bottas having an early finish in 14th place. This was a sprint weekend though, so there was always a chance to redeem themselves on the Saturday. However, this wouldn’t be the case. With both cars exiting the sprint shootout early with laps too slow, it was another uphill battle. Zhou did make up some places but ultimately crossed the line in 12th, a long way from any meaningful points. As if Saturday wasn’t bad enough, Sunday would be a horror show. Due to overheating issues, Zhou would retire with his teammate only finishing in a measly 18th place. A tough weekend in Baku.
More recently in Vegas, a decent Saturday wouldn’t be replicated the following day. Bottas’ 8th place in qualifying would be ruined by his car’s poor race pace as the Finnish driver came 17th on Sunday. For Zhou, a 15th-placed finish would wrap up another weekend of underperformance. But let’s not only talk about the negatives!
Although it wouldn’t improve the team’s standings overall, a double-point finish in Qatar put the smiles back on their faces for at least a weekend. Especially after how they qualified the day prior. Zhou started 19th and said his race was ‘something quite special’. The six points gained from Bottas’ eighth place, and Zhou behind him in ninth, moved them closer to Alpha Tauri to make the end of the season that bit more interesting, but also showed the resilience they will need going into 2024 if they want to improve.
Another silver lining to their clouded 2023 is their similarities to Ferrari. The team from Maranello were the only one to win a race this season that wasn’t Red Bull. With Alfa keeping the Ferrari engine for next season, at least they have a strong powertrain.
It was a disappointing season for Alfa Romeo, but one they can use to propel themselves forward into 2024 and beyond. The big talking point for the team is the introduction of Audi from 2026 though, which could be one of the reasons for their recent underperformance. Are they sacrificing the present for the future? In my opinion, they are. With the arrival of Audi, the team can start a new dawn and therefore have been planning for it for quite a while, thus damaging their performance both in 2022 and this season. Is it a huge risk, or is it a perfect move in a game of motorsport chess? We will see this in 2024, but in the years after too.