Alfa Romeo, and the reborn Valtteri Bottas, are the revelation of the season. Fifth car, ahead of Alpine and Aston Martin and reasonably close to
Alfa Romeo, and the reborn Valtteri Bottas, are the revelation of the season. Fifth car, ahead of Alpine and Aston Martin and reasonably close to a ragged McLaren; and eighth in the drivers’ championship with the Finn, only behind the six ‘big’ and Norris, who has a podium. AS has breakfast with Fred Vasseur, ‘main team’ of the former Sauber. The French leader speaks of “budget”, not “expenditure ceiling”, because the Swiss firm still operates below.
“It’s quite often that we have the third or fourth car, especially in the races, where we are a bit better. You have to take it easy. It is possible that, with the spending ceiling, the teams bring fewer improvements than in the past,” says a Vasseur who did not set goals for the season: “I don’t like to set limits. We would have set seventh place as a goal, what do we do now if we go faster? he jokes In any case, there are constant improvements on the way to keep up with the development race: “If you fall asleep, you’re dead. You keep the same car in two races and those from behind arrive. Plus, everything we bring works.”
zhou is rookie, has a hundred days of grace, but while Bottas reaffirms himself as one of the great drivers on this grid after five years overshadowed by Hamilton at Mercedes. Vasseur recalls: “I have known Valtteri for 15 years. He had the ballast of being in the shadow of Lewis and linking one-year contracts, or six months. It was hard to break free of that pressure. When we started talking a year ago, I told him that Mercedes would be his best option, that if he could, he would continue. But if that was not the case, I could offer him a completely different challenge in which he would be the leader, with a long-term contract, to try to get closer to Mercedes in a few years. He knows that he will not be world champion the first year with Alfa Romeo.”
The Green Red Bull
The conversation revolves around current affairs, like the imposing ‘green Red Bull’ that Aston Martin took to the track in Montmeló. Up to 14 engineers changed Milton Keynes for Silverstone. “You can’t stop people from changing teams. That’s fine. If someone goes from Red Bull to Aston Martin, they will come six months later, with their knowledge and their way of working. I know that (at Aston Martin, formerly Racing Point) they are experts in copying, but do it in two months… also now you can’t copy by photography, you have to go to the wind tunnel”, says the Frenchman, who sees risks in the financial regulations if a team invests in development, but the ideas, “with intellectual property”, end up in another: “The spending ceiling would be a big problem if someone is able to find… more than a hole. The FIA has to be strict and aggressive with the rules. They are doing a great job, but you have to keep in mind that no two teams are the same.”
Because Alfa Romeo is independent and hardly resorts to Ferrari to buy engine and gearbox. “The collaboration we have with Ferrari is like the one Williams has with Mercedes, we are customers of some parts, the engine and the gearbox, and that’s it. Other teams are more dependent, Haas buys more car parts (to Ferrari), is allowed; but we stopped going that way because the value of the parts you buy is theoretical, according to the regulations. If you buy as much as you can, the theoretical value is about 40 million, even if the cost is lower. If in 2023 or 2024 the spending ceiling is lowered, at some point I hope we will be over it, so we have to anticipate it.” “The philosophy of F1 has changed, before it was a matter of developing to the fullest and finding sponsors to pay for it. Now you have to be efficient with resources,” says Vasseur. In this house, it seems that they are.