It would have been such a good story. If ever there would have been a case of picking up where we had left off, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix would have been it. Our final points of the 2020 season had been in Imola, and for a long time we thought our first points of 2021 would come in the same venue (thankfully a lot earlier in the season than last year).
A chaotic race, started on a wet but drying track with drizzle still falling in places saw Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi race for most of the day in or about the top ten, determined to get our team off the board for our current campaign on a day of opportunity. Making a good start in treacherous conditions, with spray bringing visibility down to a zero, both drivers raced in P13 and P14, keeping it clean in the opening stages where there was so much to lose.
A terrifying shunt between Bottas and Russell brought out a red flag, after which Kimi and Antonio restarted in P8 and P11. The Finn eventually settled in P9, but came under huge pressure by a train made up by Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez in the last 12 laps of the race: he had to call upon all his experience to keep them at bay until the chequered flag. What could have been a possible double-points finish was unfortunately nullified by a technical issue on Antonio’s car when he was running line astern with his team-mate. The resulting pit stop placed him 14th at the chequered flag, robbing us of having two cars deservedly in the fight for the final two places in the points.
And then, hours after the race, came the cold shower we did not expect, with Kimi handed a 30-second penalty that takes away those two points we fought so hard for. The efforts of a weekend gone, we are left to reflect on the performance we were able to deliver. As predicted, the margins in this part of the field are small – today’s result does hurt, but seeing us fight on track like that makes for some tasty encounters expected in the next races…
Today’s decision leaves the team dumbfounded. Having already suffered an original disadvantage, with Kimi losing two places under the Safety Car, we were further hit by a disproportionate penalty, unfitting to the original fault, one we incurred by virtue of not endangering the other competitors by overtaking behind the Safety Car. It was a penalty which the stewards themselves struggled to reconcile themselves with, one within which they themselves saw contradictions. One that makes little sense from a sporting point of view. We, nevertheless, take this on the chin. We will use it to grow, and come back stronger. That is what teams do.
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN and CEO Sauber Motorsport AG: “Once again we demonstrated we have a car that can fight for points on a Sunday, even though we are left to rue not bringing home what would have been a very positive result. The conditions weren’t easy and we did a good job as a team to be in the fight. Kimi needed all his experience to keep his rivals behind at the end of the race, while it was obviously very disappointing that a technical problem got Antonio out of a very good position when we were looking at having two cars in the top ten. This issue, and the penalty that took away our two points, aside, today’s result gives us confidence for the next races, although it was another reminder of how small the margins are in the midfield and how we have to keep improving to keep ahead of the nearest rivals.”
Kimi Räikkönen (car number 7):
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41 (Chassis 04/Ferrari)
Race result: 13th
Fastest lap: 1:19.422 (L62)
Tyres: New Intermediates (26 laps) – New Medium (37 laps)
“It was a good recovery after yesterday and to take points from P16 on the grid would have been a great story. The conditions were very tricky, the track was slippery and it never fully dried up – it was so easy to make a mistake. We made a good start but couldn’t see anything in the spray; we did ok on the inters, they came back at the end of the stint but at that point the track was dry enough for slicks. We struggled a bit more after the red flag, but we were able to use the track layout to our advantage and keep everyone else behind to finish in P9. Unfortunately, we then got this penalty that means we don’t get anything to show for it, but at least we can look positively at our performance. We have been fighting for the points two races in a row, hopefully we can keep improving even more.”
Antonio Giovinazzi (car number 99):
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41 (Chassis 03/Ferrari)
Race result: 14th
Fastest lap: 1:19.470 (L57)
Tyres: New Intermediates (27 laps) – New Medium (35 laps)
“We were having a fantastic race until our issue and it was a matter of finally being able to show our true race potential. The conditions at the beginning of the race were very difficult, they reminded me of Hockenheim 2019 with very poor visibility. Kimi and I were both running in the points and to finish with both cars in the top ten were definitely on the cards, but unfortunately, we had a technical issue with one of the brakes that required a pit stop. I focus on the positives: we have a good car and we can fight for a top ten finish in most races. Hopefully luck will be more on our side in the future and we can get the rewards we deserve.”