Alfa Romeo’s driver line-up discussions led to “heated discussions and arguments” with some unnamed people in the team even wanting to “replace both drivers”, reports Blick.
Alfa Romeo have failed to take steps forward in Formula’s second season in the ground-effect aerodynamic era with the team scoring just 10 points in 15 races.
But while it must be said the C43 is lacking in pace, there’ve also been questions about the drivers – Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.
Did Alfa Romeo consider replacing Zhou Guanyu?
Bottas’ seat was believed to be secure for the 2024 season given he had signed a long-term contract when he joined Alfa Romeo in 2022, but the same couldn’t be said for Zhou.
On a one-year deal with the Hinwil team, reports claimed Mick Schumacher, Theo Pourchaire and Felipe Drugovich were all in the running to replace him.
That ended last week when the team announced both Bottas and Zhou will continue as their driver line-up for the 2024 season. Pourchaire will be the reserve driver.
It was a decision that was made, reportedly, after weeks of arguments.
F1 journalist Roger Benoit reported for Blick: “There have been heated discussions and arguments behind the scenes for weeks. Yes, there were even voices that wanted to replace both drivers.
“The duo had become too harmonious. If both drivers in a team get along so well, praise each other and always say the same thing, then that’s poison.”
However, terminating Bottas’ contract was never a genuine option as it would’ve been “too expensive”.
Instead, the team considered making a play for 2013 Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg, wanting to put him in the car alongside Bottas, only for Haas to exercise their option on the German.
“They wanted to bring the German Nico Hulkenberg back,” Benoit continued, “but unfortunately Haas boss Guenther Steiner used his option on the 195-time GP starter.”
As for Drugovich, Benoit says he “also came into play” but in the end ” those responsible simply lacked the courage to finally breathe new life and more fighting power into the deadlocked team”.
Cynically, he hinted at sponsorship being the deciding factor in keeping Zhou as he added that “maybe it was even missing millions” that cost Drugovich an F1 promotion.
“It was decided to give the Chinese Guanyu Zhou a third chance,” he continued. “Next year the GP China will return to the World Championship calendar.
“And from that country, the estimated 12 million dollars that Alfa Romeo is said to have invested in the team annually for its advertising campaign will now flow into the fourth oldest team in Formula 1.”
However, according to F1 Insider, a “senior Audi employee” has denied the team approached Hulkenberg.
Next season Alfa Romeo will run under the Sauber branding with the team set to become Audi come 2026 when the German manufacturer completes their takeover of the Hinwil team.