Alfa Romeo has agreed to a deal that will continue their arrangement with Sauber and continues to give them naming rights of the team. After an absence of more than 30 years, the company returned to F1 in 2018, and signed a multi-year technical and commercial partnership with Sauber.
As part of the partnership extension, the team said the Alfa Romeo relationship with the Sauber Group would extend beyond the race track, with Sauber Engineering involved in the design, development and manufacturing of Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia GTA and GTAm models.
Alfa Romeo Team Principal Fred Vasseur said during the week: “The extension of our relationship with Alfa Romeo is a true statement of intent from both parties. In Sauber, Alfa Romeo found a committed, performance-driven partner to which they could entrust their brand. We are honoured to carry the heritage and past success of Alfa Romeo in our name. Both parties always intended for this relationship to bear fruit in the long term: we have laid some solid foundations in the last three season and we aim to reap the rewards of this work in 2021 and beyond.”
Alfa Romeo, who along with all their rivals signed the new Concorde to race in F1 until at least the end of 2025, currently sit eighth in the constructors’ championship There are five races, including this weekend’s Grand Prix at Imola, left to run. To celebrate, for this weekend’s round both cars will run in a special, one off, livery.
The driver market situation appears to be closing the door on Sergio Perez. Williams have confirmed that Nicholas Latifi will be retained for 2021, as will George Russell. The less likely avenue for Perez is Red Bull however with Max Verstappen locked in and the increasing likelihood of Alexander Albon staying on, Perez may be needing a miracle to occur for a 2021 drive to come his way. If that is to occur, Haas, after effectively sacking Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean recently, may be that miracle as they have not announced any contenders for the two seats.
Qualifying and no real surprises for the top three. Max Verstappen will start from P3 after a scare during Q2. His engine failed and it was quickly diagnosed with faulty spark plugs. His garage team worked swiftly to rectify the issue and had the Dutchman out just in time. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton once again locked out the front row, with a last lap lunge by Bottas seeing him pip Hamilton by a mere 0.097. Hamilton felt his own pace wasn’t up to scratch but congratulated his team mate with: “I mean, jeez, he just got pole position… That’s the great thing about Valtteri. I don’t think there’s many people that can do what he’s doing if I’m really honest. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him.”P4, however, was a shock, and it’s Pierre Gasly from AlphaTauri. The Monagesque seems to be on a mission to prove the decision to relegate him to the second team a mistake, and his pace sees him under a second from Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo was well pleased with his time, with P5 against his name after the three sessions. His pace was 0.02 shy of Gasly’s, a good result for Renault. He’ll need to dig deep and have the support of the team as he’ll have Red Bull’s Albon alongside and just 0.07 behind in the time sheets. Charles Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz fill the rest of the top ten.
Bottas and Albon both had their quickest times, before the end of Q1, deleted for exceeding track limits, meaning they needed to be both fast and cautious late in the session. Ricciardo was also in danger, having left his run late, with damp conditions perhaps influencing the decision. Kimi Raikkonen gets the same penalty as Bottas and Albon, and will find himself in P18, along with Antonio Giovinazzi (P20), Nicholas Latifi (P19), and the Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen (P17) and Grosjean in P16.
Lance Stroll will start from P15 and should count himself lucky as his time was slower at one stage than Raikkonen’s. P14 is Vettel by a tenth, behind George Russell, Ocon, and Perez.
Race end and it was a wild one. Before Mercedes created history, the race saw Esteban Ocon out with a suspected gearbox problem, Max Verstappen lose P3 with 12 laps to go after blowing a right rear tire, Lance Stroll hit a pit stop attendant, P4 starter Gasly out early on lap 8 with a coolant leak, and George Russell spin himself out of the race under a safety car with just a few laps to go. Kevin Magnussen and Sebastian Vettel would tangle in the opening lap, with the Danish driver coming off worst, with a spin off before rejoining the pack.
Stroll needed a new wing on lap two after a tap from Ocon. His string of problems would continue as he came in for a stop towards race end, braking a little too late, and sending his front jack attendant sprawling. Luckily the attendant was only mildly shaken and will wake on Monday with some bruising. Stroll would blame the impact on cold brakes.
The win, however, would go to Hamilton after chasing down Bottas in the first half of the race. A beautifully timed pit stop during the safety car period brought on by Ocon’s trackside retirement had Hamilton in and out for the lead. Bottas copped extra pain when the garage radioed to advise his car’s floor had picked up damage and trapped debris. With twenty laps left in the race, Bottas would be passed in a brilliant move by Verstappen, only to regain that soon afterwards with the right rear of Verstappen’s Red Bull exploding and sending the car into a spin across the kitty litter and out.
This gave both Bottas and Hamilton a break to change rubber, and put Ricciardo in a choice position to challenge. It would also be in this safety car period that Williams driver Russell would, somehow, launch left and into the wall, sliding down the grass before stopping just trackside.
Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat also pitted, and it would be Kvyat that would give Ricciardo the hurry-up needed for the Renault team to score their second podium in three races. To the delight of the fans and, in a surprise move by race winner Hamilton, both the Australian and the Briton would “shoey”, with Hamilton grimacing at the taste.
Hamilton’s win and with Bottas in 2nd seals the seventh manufacturers championship for Mercedes. Hamilton’s win also virtually seals his seventy driver’s championship, with the gap now out to 85 points with four races to go. However, Hamilton and Mercedes have yet to sign an agreement past the end of this season still.
Ferrari’s Leclerc would finish 5th behind Kvyat and ahead of Perez, Sainz and Norris. Good news for Alfa Romeo with both Raikkonen and Giovinazzi grabbing points for 9th and 10th. Latifi finally had a race to remember for 11th and ahead of Vettel. Stroll, Grosjean and Albon would be the remaining finishers.
Teams and drivers get a break this weekend before heading to Turkey over the weekend of November 13 to 15.