Clinging on to P6 in the Constructors’, Zhou Guanyu feels it could have been a different story for Alfa Romeo with swifter upgrades.
Alfa Romeo started the campaign with a great deal of momentum, their C42 challenger lighter than many competitors and reaping the rewards.
An early midfield leader, Valtteri Bottas’ P5 at Imola, where he was harrying Mercedes’ George Russell, left many talking about a potential 2022 podium for the team.
The situation would change though as the season rolled on, teams shaving weight off their challengers and bringing performance upgrades, which saw Alpine and McLaren establish themselves as midfield leaders.
Scoring only four points after Round 9 of 22, Alfa Romeo finished level on 55 points with the improving Aston Martin team, but secured P6 in the Constructors’ Championship thanks to that Imola result for Bottas.
But it was certainly a closer battle than the team would have liked, Zhou feeling that bringing updates through quicker than they did would have helped significantly in that regard.
Alfa Romeo brought a two-part upgrade in Japan and Austin, this ultimately proving vital to keeping them in the P6 battle.
“It’s quite straightforward: The other teams have been a bit more efficient in terms of developing the new parts weekend after weekend,” Zhou told RacingNews365.com.
“The first upgrade we had was in Suzuka, then the next was at Austin, which was it for the rest of the season.
“If the parts came earlier, then it could have been another [better] story when fighting for P6, but that’s how it is.
“We have not yet reached our budget cap. I think for next year, I hope there will be a big difference in getting parts quicker.”
Bottas explained that Alfa Romeo’s late upgrades in 2022 brought greater overall balance to the C42 in terms of its performance from low to high-speed.
“The last couple of races, the main thing was a slight improvement in balance,” he told media including PlanetF1.com. “From the speed, low to high-speed, is a bit more together.
“And just overall load, so that makes obviously things a bit easier.”
2022 still a positive season for Alfa Romeo
Although the season ended on a level far below the highs on which it started, Alfa Romeo still can be proud of a clear positive step, having lagged behind the upper-midfield action for much of the 2021 campaign, finishing P9 in the standings with just 13 points, compared to the 55 scored in 2022.
To Zhou’s point, the team would benefit from being a little more proactive with their upcoming upgrade schedule, especially since they are likely to start without that weight advantage which they benefitted from at the start of 2022, though the financial boost of finishing P6, believed to be around $10 million, will certainly help with that.
This will also be a very important transitionary year for the team, as 2023 will be the final season of the Alfa Romeo-Sauber partnership, the pair going their separate ways as Sauber prepare to link-up with Audi from 2026.
The team also has the job of finding a new team principal ahead of the 2023 campaign, Frédéric Vasseur having departed to become Ferrari team boss. Andreas Seidl has left his role as McLaren team principal to become Sauber Motorsport CEO.