SEASON REVIEW: 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – Alfa Romeo Racing

by Paul Hensby

For Alfa Romeo Racing, 2019 was a year of consolidation rather than progress, with an all-new driver line-up of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi replacing Scuderia Ferrari bound Charles Leclerc and Indycar Series-bound Marcus Ericsson.

Progress was made in 2019, with the team scoring nine more points than they did twelve months ago, but they didn’t make any progress in the Constructors’ Championship, again finishing eighth out of the ten teams on the grid.

After being replaced at Ferrari by Leclerc, Räikkönen showed no signs of letting up in 2019, scoring points in each of the first four races and eight of the first twelve, although the second half of the season was far from easy for the Finn, with the veteran going through a run of seven races without a point before ending his pointless run with fourth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Team-mate Giovinazzi took some time to adapt to Formula 1 having sat out most of 2017 and all of 2018 before being given the race seat, but it took until the Austrian Grand Prix at the end of June for him to break into the points for the first time.  His tenth place at the Red Bull Ring did cost the Italian some of his hair, courtesy of Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur!

Perhaps Giovinazzi’s highlight of the year was him leading for four laps in Singapore, courtesy of starting on prime tyres and capitalising on the slow pace of Leclerc at the front of the field, but he made mistakes that cost him more points, particularly in Belgium when on course for the top ten, although he finished an encouraging fifth in Brazil, following home his team-mate.

Antonio Giovinazzi led four laps in Singapore, the only driver outside of the top three teams to head the field in 2019 – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

High Point – Alfa Romeo Take Advantage of Brazil Chaos

Whereas all the attention was being put on Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr. for finishing second and third and taking their maiden podium finishes in Brazil, Alfa Romeo were also celebrating after Räikkönen and Giovinazzi finished fourth and fifth respectively for their best result of the season.

In a race where the usual front-runners struggled, Max Verstappen aside, it was important that the midfield teams took advantage of the chaos, and Alfa Romeo did just this by avoiding the incidents and closing out the day in fourth and fifth.

There was obviously some luck involved, with an implosion coming at Ferrari as Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc collided, while Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon was taken out of a certain podium by Lewis Hamilton.  Hamilton earned a penalty for the clash, while the Briton’s Mercedes AMG Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas was an early retirement following a technical issue.

Never-the-less, the two Alfa Romeo drivers kept themselves out of trouble and brought home twenty-two points for the Hinwil-based outfit, by far the best points haul for them in 2019.  It wouldn’t improve their position in the Constructors’ Championship, but it gave them a big boost that they can take into 2020.

Alfa Romeo scored big in Brazil, finishing fourth and fifth – Credit: Frederic Le Floc’h / DPPI

Low Point – Post-race Penalties Costs Alfa Romeo in Germany

Initially it looked as though Alfa Romeo had scored a good haul of points in Germany, with Räikkönen finishing seventh and Giovinazzi eighth, but it would all turn sour a few hours after the race after stewards deemed that they had used driver aids at the start.

The stewards felt the clutch torque application during the start did not match the torque demand as the driver released the clutch within the specified seventy-millisecond maximum period, with Alfa Romeo’s time being more than four times longer than allowed.  

After a fighting performance from both Räikkönen and Giovinazzi, the time penalties applied saw them drop outside the top ten, with the two Haas F1 Team drivers plus Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica moving up places.

The team appealed the decision, but this was thrown out by the FIA World Council just after the Russian Grand Prix, with this ensuring that Kubica’s tenth place was confirmed, giving Williams Racing their one and only point of 2019.

A double points finish in Germany was lost due to post-race penalties – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Qualifying Battle

In the early part of the season, Räikkönen had the better of Giovinazzi on Saturday afternoons, but when the Italian got into the groove, he became more than a match for the Finn.

Räikkönen made it through to Q3 on eight occasions, the majority of those coming in the first half of the season, while Giovinazzi made it there for the first time in his career in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix but would only make two further appearances in the top ten shootout across the remaining seventeen races.

It seemed early on that Giovinazzi was hit by bad luck, with the Italian being forced to start at the back of the grid in Azerbaijan following an unscheduled engine change, making his Q3 appearance almost worthless.   Never-the-less, he showed on occasions just what he could do given a decent car to qualify with.

Räikkönen’s average qualifying position across the season was 11.95, while Giovinazzi’s was 13.24, with the Finn outqualifying the Italian in twelve of the twenty-one races.  But it was not as clear cut as it should have been for a seasoned veteran against a relative rookie.

Race Battle

Whereas Qualifying was relatively close, Sunday’s was a totally different story, with Räikkönen finishing ahead of Giovinazzi on seventeen occasions out of twenty-one.  It was round seven of the season in Canada before the Italian found a way to finish ahead of the Finn.

Räikkönen started the year with points finishes in the first four races and scored eight times in the first twelve races, while in the same time Giovinazzi would only score points once in Austria. 

But despite only finishing ahead of Räikkönen four times all year, Giovinazzi amassed three points finishes after the summer break compared to the Finn’s one, but that one time was the fourth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix where the Italian was fifth.

Räikkönen will take little solace in beating Giovinazzi so comprehensively in 2019, especially on the back of his poor results in the second half of the season, with seven consecutive races seeing the Finn either finishing outside the top ten or retiring.  Giovinazzi will need to step up his game in 2020 if he is to compete with his team-mate.

Season Results

Round Räikkönen Qualifying Räikkönen Race Giovinazzi Qualifying Giovinazzi Race
Australia 9 8 14 15
Bahrain 9 7 16 11
China 13 9 19 15
Azerbaijan DQ 10 8 12
Spain 14 14 18 16
Monaco 14 17 15 19
Canada 17 15 13 13
France 12 7 10 16
Austria 7 9 8 10
Great Britain 12 8 11 RET
Germany 5 12 11 13
Hungary 10 7 14 18
Belgium 8 16 15 18
Italy 10 15 11 9
Singapore 14 RET 12 10
Russia 16 13 13 15
Japan 13 12 11 14
Mexico 14 RET 15 14
United States 17 11 16 14
Brazil 8 4 12 5
Abu Dhabi 17 13 16 16
Kimi Räikkönen scored points regularly in the first half of the year – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

What to Look Out for in 2020

Alfa Romeo cannot be satisfied with finishing eighth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2019, so they will be aiming for better in 2020.  They will continue with both Räikkönen and Giovinazzi, which will give them some stability heading into the new campaign, but they must do better with the follow-up to the C38, which only showed flashes of promise.

With Räikkönen, they had an extremely experienced driver who is a former World Champion, and the Finn will need to be on the top of his game if he is to take Alfa Romeo to the front of the midfield. 

On the other side of the garage, Giovinazzi will need to take the confidence he gained from the second half of 2019 into next season and become a regular contender for points, with the Italian needing to remove the mistakes from his driving if to extend his career in Formula 1 beyond 2020. 

Ultimately, it will be down to Alfa Romeo to give their drivers the car to show the talent everyone knows their have, with 2020 likely to be a big test of those at Hinwil if they want the team to be fighting at the front of the midfield.

Antonio Giovinazzi will be looking to build on his performances from 2019 next season – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

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