F1 Summer Break Review: Alfa Romeo Racing

The rebranded Sauber team, Alfa Romeo Racing have continued their gradual rise back to the top end of Formula One's middle group with former-Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen leading their charge. 

The Finn hit the ground running in his return to the team he left 17 years ago. Clinching Q3 frequently and points finishes more time than less, the 39-year-old has accentuated the fruitless return from his younger co-driver.

Dips in performance were clear in Spain, Monaco and Canada as the Swiss-based side struggled in the heat of Barcelona but returned to the points in France and have maintained that since. 

However, low expectations in rookie Antonio Giovinazzi has not put too much pressure on the Italian's seat in comparison to the shadow casted over Pierre Gasly at Red Bull and Robert Kubica at Williams. 

Raikkonen has scored all but one of Alfa's 32 points this season with the former world champion keeping the team up there amongst the likes of Toro Rosso and Renault.

Contrasting performances

Driver Standings:

Kimi Raikkonen: 8th (31pts)

Antonio Giovinazzi: 18th (1pt)

Constructor standing: 7th (32pts)

14 points ahead of where the team was at this point last season, there has been a clear improvement with the experienced Finn proving the car is capable of competing with the 'best of the rest' in McLaren.

Giovinazzi's one appearance amongst the points is a clear comparison to Raikkonen's eight this season, however, the rookie does not carry the same expectations. 

It seemed the Italian was beginning to close the gap on his teammate, earning his first Q3 in Azerbaijan was followed up by pipping Raikkonen to eighth on the starting grid. 

But points were becoming hard to come by for the 25-year-old until the duck was finally broken at Austria where the two Alfa drivers finished amongst the points in the first dramatic race of the season at the top. 

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However, there have been a lot of 15th/16th finishes which may concern the team despite his age. Raikkonen has shown what the car is capable of but the Italian has struggled to extract everything from the car and close the gap on the Finn.

No one is expecting Giovinazzi to match Raikkonen who has been racing before his teammate was even born. Yet there is the feeling that Giovinnazi lacks consistency with him being unable to lockdown finishes near the top 10.  

Is Giovinazzi feeling the heat?

Not yet, however, he will be expected to pick up the performances following the summer break.

Following his first-ever points finish in Formula One at Austria, the Italian said the pressure was only coming from the media: “I think the pressure was coming more from you guys,” he said. 

“Every race weekend it was ‘when are you going to come the first point?’.

It must be remembered - despite the lack of points finishes - the Italian was been out of a race seat for two years and is still in the process of acclimatising himself back into life as an F1 driver. 

“Finally we got this. I was relaxed because the [performance] was improving race by race. Now we have this point we need to keep working hard and be there every race weekend.”

“The positive thing is you can learn from him, watch his data, watch what he’s doing in meetings or on the track or whatever,” said Giovinazzi.

A lack of realistic options means Giovinazzi will likely keep his seat at Alfa Romeo even if the 25-year-old's fruitless form continues after the summer break. 

“You can learn how much is possible compared to a normal driver – he’s a World Champion driver so he’s like a target for you. From the other side, of course, he’s a World Champion driver and also in terms of result he will be always there, he will never make a mistake, he has a lot of experience, he knows what to do.”