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F1 | Austrian GP | Alfa Romeo on Bottas: "We were on the edge of one and two stops."

Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN’s Head of Trackside Engineering, Xevi Pujolar reflected on the race and how close the team came came to an unlikely point.

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F1 | Austrian GP | Alfa Romeo on Bottas: "We were on the edge of one and two stops."
Fuente imagen: sauber-group.com

Valtteri Bottas arrived in Austria eager to return to point scoring ways following his disappointment at Silverstone. Unfortunately, despite finishing Saturday’s Sprint in P10, Valtteri Bottas was set to start the Austrian Grand Prix from the back due to a power unit change. By the time the chequered flag fell, Bottas crossed the line P11 having narrowly lost out on a point on the penultimate lap of the race to Fernando Alonso. Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN’s Head of Trackside Engineering, Xevi Pujolar, reflected on the race and how close the team came to an unlikely point. 

Valtteri Bottas was so close to nearly completing a pit-lane-to-points comeback at the Austrian Grand Prix. After the race, Alfa Romeo’s Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur labelled the Grand Prix “a difficult weekend” for his team. However, he also explained to the media post-race that “to nearly come away with a point despite all that happened shows the attitude of this team.” Valtteri Bottas came extremely close to a memorable point, but the tyre advantage Fernando Alonso had on the final lap of a hectic Austrian Grand Prix was too much for Bottas to overcome.

Prior to the race, Pirelli had stated that the quickest and most effective tyre strategy would be a one-stopper. However, no driver managed such a tyre strategy and Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, explained why in Pirelli’s post-race press release as he remarked “A lot of the degradation seen today was also down to traffic on this short lap, as when cars are battling, they take more energy out of their tyres.”

Nevertheless, Alfa Romeo’s Head of trackside engineering, Xevi Pujolar, told select media, which included Motorlat, that his team came close to such a strategical approach but ‘a chain reaction’ of pitstops meant the plan could not come to fruition. They had also run a different rear wing setup for Bottas' car to ensure that he had more downforce and it all so nearly paid off. 

“We were on the edge of one and two stops for us, but we were more thinking it could be probably possible to do a one stop.” Pujolar said post-race. “With Valtteri, because we were stuck already starting from the back, we took this choice on the rear wing to see if we could make progress and we had a plan already prepared if we cannot make progress because it will be on the edge of one and two stop. So, we’d go early and then let's see what happens there how people react. When everybody saw that probably the one stop was not happening it just started a chain reaction everyone started to come to the box.” said Pujolar.

Alfa Romeo was very bold with their strategy. They pitted Bottas after just 6 laps to change from his medium compound to a hard tyre due to the fact that there was DRS-train through P9 to P19. As the race continued, and after another pitstop for a set of hard tyres, Bottas picked off drivers through the field getting up to P10 in the closing stages. However, the pace of Fernando Alonso (who did a stint of 27 laps on the hard compound before his first pitstop) coupled with the Spaniard’s medium tyre for the closing stages was too much for Bottas and he had to relinquish his point to the Alpine racer - on the penultimate lap of an exciting Austrian Grand Prix.

The medium tyre certainly demonstrated an excellent performance around the Red Bull Ring whereas the degradation on the hard tyre was clearly higher than teams had expected. This was no doubt due to the fact that the teams didn’t have time to run the compound in race conditions during free practice as it was a Sprint weekend which meant one less free practice session. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing as at one time there were 5 cars battling together – including Bottas’ teammate Zhou Guanyu – and it made for gripping entertainment while those on track battled for grip.

Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN had a strong package in Austria and Valtteri Bottas had impressive pace, but it was always an uphill battle starting from the back as stated by Alfa’s Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur “We knew we had a tough job ahead of us if we wanted to come away with a good result, and we very nearly did. It was a hectic race, with lots of battling and action – a great advertisement for our sport.”

There are plenty of positives Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN can take with them to the French Grand Prix in just over a week and there is every expectation that they will be back in the points. However, with Haas once again scoring double points and Alpine continuing to be a force to be reckoned with – it will be no easy feat but certainly great to watch.


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