Criticised by Antonio Giovinazzi after his P11 in Mexico, Xevi Pujolar says Alfa Romeo have since spoken with the driver to explain their strategy call.
Having run as high as P6 at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix, Giovinazzi was angry with Alfa Romeo as his race finished in a disappointing P11.
Kimi Raikkonen, who had been behind his team-mate before the round of pit stops, crossed the line in eighth place.
“The strategy was completely wrong,” Giovinazzi told Sky Italia after the race.
Asked if he felt that Alfa Romeo ruined his races ‘on purpose’, he replied: “Until now, I didn’t want to believe that, but today I’m really disappointed.”
Pujolar, Alfa Romeo’s head of track engineering, has since spoken with his driver to clear the air.
“We had a good chat with Antonio after the race. He raised some very good questions, of course he knows we did not expect his race to play out like this and we surely did not want to compromise his race,” he said.
“We expected him to come out of the pits behind two really fast cars and at the time we had no grounds to believe otherwise. We understand he is disappointed – so are we: he deserved a good result after the performance he had put in.
“We learn from this race and we keep fighting together, as a team. We have shown in the last few races that we have the pace to score points regularly and we aim to continue doing so – with both Kimi and Antonio.
“There are still four races to go and if we keep scoring as we have done recently, we can have a good end of the year.”
— Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN (@alfaromeoracing) November 7, 2021
Pujolar explained the team’s strategy when it came to Giovinazzi, saying when they saw he’d come out behind Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo, a Mercedes and McLaren, they thought they’d be putting him back out behind two quick cars.
But, he concedes, they misjudged the pace of Bottas and Ricciardo, both of whom had fallen to the back of the field after their first lap contact.
“We had no incentive to pit as we were controlling the gap to Vettel, but then Antonio started to drop the pace relative to the competitors ahead and behind and he reported to be struggling with the rear tyres,” he said.
“We were looking at the traffic behind him and saw Bottas and Ricciardo, who had come in early and were managing the tyres. What we wanted to avoid was Antonio losing more time and Kimi getting stuck in a little train with everyone packed behind Antonio, as that would have affected both negatively, so we decided to box him, thinking that Vettel would pit as well and therefore to avoid the undercut.
“As our lap times were not improving, we did not expect to be able to get the gap we needed, we expected Antonio to come out behind Bottas and to just go with him and Ricciardo as they picked up speed.
“We misjudged their pace, we thought they would be a lot quicker, in a Mercedes and a McLaren, but they turned out to be slower than us. This, unfortunately, compromised Antonio’s race.
“We did not expect that, he ended up stuck behind this battle and losing so much time. We do not know if Bottas or Ricciardo had damage, but even if they did, we were surprised by how slow their pace was.”
A tale of two exits at Alfa Romeo
There seems to be a tale of two exits at Alfa Romeo as Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi head into the final races.