‘Weak driver line-up could expose Alfa Romeo’

Total-Motorsport.com take a closer look at what to expect from Alfa Romeo ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season

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Alfa Romeo are the only team outside of the big three to retain the same driver line-up for 2023 as Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu spend a second Formula 1 campaign together.

Following a strong start to the 2022 season, Alfa Romeo faded away but just held onto sixth place in the constructors’ championship on countback over Aston Martin thanks to Bottas‘ fifth plcae in Imola.

This season is the final year of Alfa Romeo‘s title partnership with Sauber, ahead of Audi‘s purchase of the team in 2026.

Total-Motorsport.com journalists Adam Dickinson, Andrew Wright, Ed Spencer and Nigel Chiu take a look at what to expect from Alfa Romeo in 2023.

Ed Spencer: Identity crisis off the track?

Alfa Romeo go into the year amid an identity crisis off the track; whilst on it, there is a real sense of progress following a good 2022 season.

Team leader Bottas has aged like a fine chianti since leaving Mercedes, and last year he showcased his class, so one could expect him to return to the rostrum providing the car is reliable. 

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix | REUTERS/Nacho Doce

His teammate Zhou heads into the year with plenty of confidence but is not guaranteed to retain his seat for 2024, meaning another step will be needed to wane off competition.

Add in the new management duo of Andreas Seidl and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, and everything looks promising, but the team will need to hope the reliability of the C43 is much better than its predecessor. 

Nigel Chiu: Zhou now the weakest driver on the grid

From the eye, the C43 has similar characteristics to last year’s title-winning Red Bull with its downwash sidepod and new floor. I think Alfa Romeo will start the season well, but then fade away like they did in the second half of 2022.

This time though, I feel Alfa Romeo won’t be able to take sixth in the championship because they won’t score the fifth and sixth places they had last year.

The standard of the F1 grid is outstanding nowadays, arguably the best it has ever been, but I think Zhou might be the weak link, with all due respect.

His ceiling just isn’t high enough and I don’t think he will kick on. Teammate Bottas can be excellent over one lap, but I still have questions about his race pace and racecraft, which isn’t suited for a driver in the midfield.

Adam Dickinson: Alfa Romeo will struggle to be sixth again

The C43 certainly seems to have addressed Alfa Romeo’s problem areas from 2022 and learned from what was successful for Red Bull and Ferrari under the new regulations.

It’s hard to compare that to the rest of the grid until we see every 2023 car though, and their biggest focus should be making the most of their opportunities wherever their raw pace lines up.

Additionally, Zhou and Bottas are a step behind the line-ups of the teams around Alfa Romeo in the midfield, and that could be the difference of a position or two in the championship. I think they’ll struggle to repeat their sixth-place finish.

Andrew Wright: They will struggle, but look good doing it

My prediction for Alfa Romeo is that they’ll struggle in 2023 but look good doing it; their new challenger is an absolute beauty.

However, I am concerned by the massive drop-off in form they suffered after a promising start to the 2022 season, going from semi-regular top-10 finishers to miles off the pace.

Formula One F1 – Dutch Grand Prix – Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands – September 3, 2022 Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou during qualifying REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

It’s clear they took a wrong turn or two somewhere and I’m sure they’ll have spent winter trying to address last year’s failings but it’s easier said than done and their rivals won’t exactly be sitting still.

They’ve also got to contend with the loss of team principal Frederic Vasseur, which is a bit of an unknown. I’m tipping Aston Martin and AlphaTauri to leapfrog them in the pecking order.

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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