Q&A - Xevi Pujolar on the Mexican Grand Prix
The Mexican Grand Prix saw Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN finish in the top ten for the second time in the last four races, bringing our points total to 11 so far in the season. It has been a strong turn of performance for the team, which also missed out on points-paying positions in Turkey and Austin (P11 with Antonio Giovinazzi).
Antonio Giovinazzi was also 11th in Mexico, a result which left him and the team disappointed after the Italian had been running as high as sixth in the opening stages and had looked solid for a points finish until his only stop of the day.
Head of Track Engineering, Xevi Pujolar, goes back to the events of Sunday to analyse how Antonio’s race unfolded and what led to missing out on a potential strong result.
Q: Xevi, a weekend of two halves for the team with four more points in the bag, but a feeling of a potential double points finish lost. How would you sum it up?
XP: “Looking at the weekend, there are definitely some positives – we were able to maximise the potential of one of the cars and score the best result of the team this season, with Kimi. On the downside, we know Antonio could have been up there as well, fighting for anything up to seventh place, so to only have one car in the top ten, and getting yet another P11, is a bit of a mixed bag.”
Q: Things were looking really good at the start, with a very good launch by Antonio and both cars running in the points. How did the first part of the race unfold?
XP: “We were on the pace from the start of the weekend, putting two cars in Q2 and, thanks to a few penalties to cars ahead of us, lining up on the grid in P10 and P11. The strategy was not going to be much of a surprise: like most of our rivals, we started on mediums with a plan to go to hard tyres and the question was just about how long we’d go, how long we’d need to extend the first stint. Both cars had really good starts, especially Antonio who climbed up to P6 at first and was running in P7. Kimi cleared Russell, which was really important, and made it up to ninth. At that point, we looked in a very good position for putting two cars in the points.”
Q: Then the pit window opened, and that put things in motion up and down the field. What was the view on the pit wall?
XP: “We had no incentive to pit as we were controlling the gap to Vettel, but then Antonio started to drop the pace relative to the competitors ahead and behind and he reported to be struggling with the rear tyres. We were looking at the traffic behind him and saw Bottas and Ricciardo, who had come in early and were managing the tyres. What we wanted to avoid was Antonio losing more time and Kimi getting stuck in a little train with everyone packed behind Antonio, as that would have affected both negatively, so we decided to box him, thinking that Vettel would pit as well and therefore to avoid the undercut. As our laptimes were not improving, we did not expect to be able to get the gap we needed, we expected Antonio to come out behind Bottas and to just go with him and Ricciardo as they picked up speed: we misjudged their pace, we thought they would be a lot quicker, in a Mercedes and a McLaren, but they turned out to be slower than us. This, unfortunately, compromised Antonio’s race. We did not expect that, he ended up stuck behind this battle and losing so much time. We do not know if Bottas or Ricciardo had damage, but even if they did, we were surprised by how slow their pace was.”
Q: To see two front runners so much off the pace was indeed surprising, and it is a shame it cost Antonio his race…
XP: “We had a good chat with Antonio after the race: he raised some very good questions, of course he knows we did not expect his race to play out like this and we surely did not want to compromise his race. We expected him to come out of the pits behind two really fast cars and at the time we had no grounds to believe otherwise. We understand he is disappointed – so are we: he deserved a good result after the performance he had put in.
“We learn from this race and we keep fighting together, as a team. We have shown in the last few races that we have the pace to score points regularly and we aim to continue doing so – with both Kimi and Antonio. There are still four races to go and if we keep scoring as we have done recently, we can have a good end of the year.”