Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur dismisses suggestions that replacing Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi was an ‘easy decision’.
Alfa Romeo will enter the 2022 F1 season with a completely new driver line-up. Their previous pairing of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi are no longer a part of the Formula 1 grid.
Raikkonen bid farewell to his 20 year long career at the end of the 2021 season. On the other hand, Giovinazzi’s contract with the team wasn’t renewed for the upcoming campaign. As a result, the Italian driver made the switch to Formula-E, where he will driver for Dragon Penske Autosport in 2022.
Raikkonen stated that he would be retiring from the sport last September. Alfa Romeo didn’t waste much time announcing his replacement thereafter. Right before the Italian GP, it was announced that Valtteri Bottas would leave Mercedes to join the Swiss team.
An epic battle! Congrats to both the winner and who fought till the very last.
It has been an incredible journey.
Joy and pain, anger and excitement. Thanks to my sponsors and to all my supporters – I promise you the best is yet to come💪💙#AbuDhabiGP #F1 #AG99🐝 pic.twitter.com/59V8WVVYyT
— Antonio Giovinazzi (@Anto_Giovinazzi) December 12, 2021
Giovinazzi’s departure from the team was something that fans labeled as the ‘worst kept secret’ in F1. It was clear that they wanted someone new to partner with Bottas, but the decision wasn’t officially revealed until November.
Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou was announced as Giovinazzi’s replacement at the team, in a move that was criticized by many. Some even felt that making the decision was an easy call on Vasseur’s part.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to a driver, says the Alfa Romeo boss
Frederic Vasseur admitted that saying goodbye to Raikkonen and Giovinazzi wasn’t easy. The two had been with the team for three seasons, and had some great moments with the outfit.
However, he cited factors like sponsorship money, driver compatibility and their experience in the sport as reasons for giving Zhou a seat.
2022 @alfaromeoracing F1 Driver!
A kid’s dream come true…
First Chinese 🇨🇳 F1 driver.
— 周冠宇 | Guanyu Zhou 🇨🇳 (@GuanyuZhou24) November 16, 2021
“With drivers, it’s never an easy decision,” he said. “You will find some of my colleagues that would say it was an easy choice. It was obvious, but it’s never obvious because it’s a crucial choice.”
“We need to think about this. How to attract sponsors and the combination is quite complex. But the atmosphere into the team is an important parameter.”
Just having a fast driver behind the wheel does not bring success, Vasseur feels
Many people felt Giovinazzi should have been given a chance to prove himself in a faster car. With Alfa Romeo expected to make strides in 2022, it would have been interesting to see how the Martina Franca born driver fared.
On top of that, Oscar Piastri, who won the F2 Championship in dominant fashion was also linked to the Alfa seat. In the end, the Aussie missed out on it, whereas Zhou, who finished P3 in F2 got the nod.
“I’m not speaking about speed,” Vasseur continued. “For sure, it’s one of the parameters.”
“But it’s how the guy will fit with the team, at which stage of his career he is at and where he wants to go, the collaboration between the two cars, the two drivers that you have.”
“For sure, you have different aspects about performance. The speed, the sponsor, we need to have the budget. It’s a very complex decision, but it’s never an easy one.”