Alfa Romeo says it expects its fight in 2023 to be with Alpine and McLaren – explaining its decision to pit Zhou Guanyu during the closing stages in Bahrain.
Valtteri Bottas profited from a strong first lap to deliver four points with a quietly effective run to eighth place in Bahrain.
Alpine driver Pierre Gasly surged from the back of the grid to ninth place and was on course to claim the extra point having set the race’s fastest lap at that stage.
That was until Alfa Romeo pitted Zhou from 13th place in the closing laps and equipped his C43 with a set of Soft tyres, allowing the Chinese sophomore to have a successful crack at the race’s fastest lap.
As Zhou did not finish inside the top 10 – eventually classifying 16th – he did not receive a point for setting the fastest lap, but the lap ensured Gasly did not receive the bonus point.
“Our challenge for now was at least focusing on the Alpine and McLarens – they had some problems – so it was just with Alpine,” said Alfa Romeo’s Head of Trackside Engineering Xevi Pujolar.
“Probably the only thing [missing in Bahrain] we would say is we wanted to be in Q3, we were close, we put the cars in P12 and P13 and then it was fighting for points.
“Our target was [fighting with] Alpine and McLaren, to have good reliability, and I think we hit all these targets.
“We were ahead of Alpine and McLaren, we got two cars to the end of the race, and getting this fastest lap with Zhou we removed the point from Alpine, so if we can do like this every race I will be very pleased.”
The result leaves Alfa Romeo fifth in the nascent stages of the season, two points ahead of sixth-placed Alpine, with Pujolar confident the team can achieve its pre-2023 ambition.
“We have got a good baseline and we have some developments going on at the factory in the pipeline, so I’m sure everyone will be pushing very hard to bring updates,” he said.
“We want to keep up fighting with the top of the midfield – that’s our target. We think we should be able to do that.”