It took seven months to get back racing, but the sweet taste of Formula One action is finally back. More than half a year since the final race in the dazzling lights of Abu Dhabi, here come the familiar feeling of trepidation before the lights-out moment, the butterflies in the stomach during a pit-stop and the elation as the chequered flag falls.
As racing comes back, so does the focus on the end result. Just like 12 months ago, Austria was the backdrop for a great performance by Antonio Giovinazzi: on the stage where he scored his first Formula One points, the Italian executed a spotless grand prix, overcoming the hurdles of several Safety Cars and charging rivals to score two points and open the team’s tally in the Constructors’ standings.
On the other side of the garage, there was no luck for Kimi Räikkönen. After rallying from his starting position of 19th to challenge for the points in the opening stages, he was the main loser of the first Safety Car period, the race being neutralised immediately after his first visit to the pits, gifting his rivals a free stop.
Having recovered to the low teens, he was then forced into retirement by a technical failure that caused the loss of the front right wheel.
Despite this blot on the team’s copybook, it was a positive Sunday in which the team showed a better turn of pace and the ability to capitalise on the occasions that would emerge during a high-attrition weekend – a promising sign ahead of next week’s Steiermark Grand Prix in this same venue.
Alfa Romeo Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN and CEO Sauber Motorsport AG: “Scoring points in the opening race of the season is always a good thing, but there are more positives than just the result at the chequered flag.
“Our race pace was a definite step forward from yesterday’s qualifying and we were able to extract more of the potential of the C39. As a team we kept a cool head during such a rollercoaster of a race and to bring home points is a good reward for all the work ahead of this race.
“It was a pity to lose Kimi this way, but we will investigate the issue and make sure we can fight for a place in the top 10 with two cars from next week.”
Alfa Romeo Driver Kimi Räikkönen: “It’s a shame to end the race like this when things were looking good. Compared to yesterday, we had made a step forward and we had a reasonable turn of speed. The timing of the first Safety Car cost us places, but we were still in a good position and with new tyres I could have fought for some points.
“Unfortunately then we had to retire: the problem came as a surprise, I had no warning it would happen. We will need to investigate what happened. For now, we can take some positives from our pace in race conditions and keep improving the car.”
Alfa Romeo Driver Antonio Giovinazzi: “I am really happy with today’s result. After our difficult qualifying yesterday, to get to the points was the maximum we could do. The race wasn’t easy, we struggled a little at the start but we got stronger as the race went on.
“Of course, in such a chaotic race you need a bit of luck, but we were ready to grab any chance with two hands when it came. We put up a big fight for this and in the end P9 is a great way to start the season. I am really happy for the guys and girls in the garage and back at home.
“There’s still a lot to improve but it’s just the first race of the season: there’s plenty of time and I am already looking forward to being back in the car next week.”