Alfa Romeo: Small steps forward in Spa, weaknesses remain

Alfa Romeo

Repeating their sixth-place finish in the Constructors Championship from last year seems like an (almost) impossible goal for Alfa Romeo.

The jump in performance of Aston Martin at the beginning of the year and of McLaren mid-season, combined with the confirmed superiority of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, means there are more ‘big teams’ in 2023.

Alpine is confirmed to be halfway between the top and the bottom of the field, whilst Williams has capitalised on its strong weekends, so much so that it has a 2-point lead over Haas and Alfa Romeo itself. At the very back is the AlphaTauri.

Alfa Romeo-Sauber aimed to secure the sixth position in 2023, and the season opener in Bahrain was very promising.

However, this only created high expectations, which gradually turned into disappointment.

After Silverstone upgrades, the strengths and weaknesses of the Alfa Romeo C43 were seen in Hungary and at Spa

At Silverstone, Alfa Romeo introduced a major package of developments, such as a new bottom and a new diffuser specification. 

This package followed that of Montecarlo, originally planned for Imola, an event which was later cancelled.

After the promising start to the season in Bahrain and decent pace in Jeddah, the C43 seemed to be a significant positive evolution of the previous car, especially at high speeds. Everything gradually faded away.

The rivals progressed faster, and the limitations of the C43 prevented repeating a start to the season at the level of the 2022 one.

During the winter, the Swiss team had focused on the evolution of the rear, getting very close to the Red Bull concepts, and postponing work on the front until the season.

Improvements were seen in the first races, with a new front suspension fairing soon followed by a new nose and front wing

The C43 fundamentally lacked downforce compared to its rivals and the updates introduced at Silverstone certainly gave more downforce. 

Something positive had already been seen at Silverstone, “but the temperatures and conditions of the weekend didn’t allow us to work and make the most of the new developments,” said Xavi Pujolar, head of Alfa Romeo engineers.

True confirmation was found in Hungary, where Zhou and Bottas surprised everyone with excellent performances while in Spa there was a big step backwards. The result is not so surprising when analyzing the behavior of the C43 since the beginning of the year.

The new aerodynamic layout of the Alfa Romeo Sauber C43, with the bonnet openings blowing higher – illustration Rosario Giuliana

In fact, the biggest limitation is drag. Not only does Alfa Romeo often use heavily loaded rear wings, but an engineer from the team has given more details:

“On this new generation of cars, [the rear wings] are not as important an indication of the level of resistance to the progress of the whole car, as they were on the previous ones”, but it is the whole body of the car to produce resistance to movement

New wings (front and rear) and a beam wing were introduced at Spa to gain straight-line speed.

The choices certainly worked, albeit partially, given that it wasn’t enough for the C43 to be more efficient and faster than cars like Williams and Haas, and the load in the second sector wasn’t enough to compensate for this deficit.

At the Hungaroring, the C43 found its peak performance. In fact, on the Hungarian track, aerodynamic efficiency is a less important value to be competitive.

 Above all, you need to have loaded at low and medium speeds, and the C43, thanks above all to the developments at Silverstone, has made important improvements in these aspects.

There has been progress, importantly, even at high speeds, but there the C43, despite the step made since 2022, still pays the price towards its rivals.

However, when there’s a need to develop downforce, tyre warm-up issues should be avoided. There weren’t many straights, especially with DRS closed, where the C43 showed very interesting qualities.

Sauber will still use the Ferrari Power Unit until 2025, but without Alfa Romeo, which will go to

The time you live in Hinwil is special and electrifying. There are so many changes taking place. The latest was the arrival of James Key as the new Technical Director in place of Jan Monchaux, currently in gardening. 

Andreas Seidl began to transform and strengthen the group in anticipation of Audi’s official entry in 2026, leaving the management of the team to Alessandro Alunni Bravi, especially on the track, until then in the position of Team Principal. 

The partnership with Ferrari will continue until that date, despite the departure of Alfa Romeo, using the horse’s Power Units and continuing to produce suspensions, gearboxes and cooling systems on-site.

The snake brand will instead land in Haas and will brand the Maranello engines that will still push the cars of Gunther Steiner’s team.

Audi has made it known that it is not experiencing problems or delays on its roadmap, and there is a long time for development until 2026.

Still, the other engine manufacturers are no less and have, to date, ideas and development plans in a more advanced phase

In Hinwil, however, work is being done to recover ground where it is needed, as Alessandro Alunni Bravi always explained:

“We are working to improve our team over the next two seasons. We know that there are restrictions also from a financial point of view, but Andreas Seidl is trying to improve what are our weaknesses today, also observing the opportunities on the market and regarding the development of infrastructures.”

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang