The paddock was taken aback when Team Alfa Romeo, a Swiss outfit, demonstrated impressive speed during qualifying, boasting consistent timing. With Zhou Guanyu leading the pack in Q1 and ultimately securing fifth place, the team’s performance was noteworthy.
Valtteri Bottas also put up a strong showing, climbing as high as fourth in Q2, and subsequently placing seventh in Q3. Bottas‘ standing was only disrupted by Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, who slotted between Bottas and his comrade, Zhou.
Alfa Romeo has been regularly updating their C43 with new parts, including a substantial floor package that was implemented during the prior race at the British Grand Prix. According to Bottas, the innovations led to higher expectations of better performance than their previous outing at Silverstone. However, Bottas admitted they hadn’t anticipated the game-changing leap up the grid.
In his own words, “Based on the feeling for the car I did say coming to the weekend that it should feel a bit better than Silverstone… But it’s much better. I didn’t expect that, but we’ll take it.”
Bottas mentioned the need for the team to gain a better understanding of the new package and optimization of the ride heights. The surprise wasn’t just that their speed was much better, but that this applied across the board. He further attributed the performance boost to the track favoring their car’s strongest aspects and mentioned the usually ‘draggy’ straight lane was limited to just one, hence reducing time losses.
Bottas was pleased with the overall performance, crediting the right setup and strategic direction as factors that helped edge out competition in Q3. As he recalled, “the team had a clean weekend…So it was really a solid day.”
Bottas realized there was potential in the Hungary package during Saturday’s FP3 session. He recalled, “After third practice when we did the lap times, I ended up 10th. With still an engine mode that wasn’t quali mode, I knew that we’re onto something here.”
Humorously, Bottas mentioned he wished he could bet since he had confidently predicted a top-seven placing before the qualifiers, sharing, “I actually told Andreas [Seidl] that it’s going to be top seven today, just before quali. So a pretty good prediction. I’m sad I’m not allowed to do betting, because I could have made some good money!”
Bottas acknowledged that small differences often have big impacts. Although the swings in performance can look enormous when glanced upon, a deeper perusal of lap times points out they aren’t that vast. He reflected that a perfect race weekend is what can propel teams many positions forward.