For years, the Sauber Formula 1 team — racing officially for the last two seasons under the Alfa Romeo brand — has played the role of reliable backmarker. It’s not the worst-performing squad on the grid, mind you, with Haas prone to its flashes of life but ultimately hampered by a lack of consistency and Williams trundling along even further behind. But you rarely see any forward progress from the Swiss-Italian outfit, either.
I don’t expect that to change for 2021, with Alfa Romeo relying on the same drivers — Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi — and today trotting out a car that mechanically fusses with very little compared to the outgoing chassis. The nose appears to be new and slimmer, and of course there are the required changes to the floor, rear diffuser and brake ducts that every team must make. But with a limited number of tokens to use on upgrades ahead of the drastic new formula brewing for 2022, the Alfa Romeo C41 isn’t showing signs for a 2021 turnaround.
At least the livery looks really, really good.
AlphaTauri revealed its 2021 car last week with a livery that was very similar to the one on the 2020 version. Likewise, Alfa hasn’t made profound changes to the structure of its design, though the colors on the C41 have flipped, with the red and white portions swapping positions. (Here’s a picture of last year’s car, for reference.) It’s a simple tweak, but the result is transformative.
The red seems to be a deeper and glossier shade of maroon that carries to the front and rear wing endplates, and it looks great. The top-down progression of white, to maroon, to black, festooned with a healthy number of sponsors near the floor produces a very clean and tight aesthetic. The wheels, once again black, tie it all together brilliantly, and the choice of that dark red for the halo helps slim down the car’s profile, too.
Alfa Romeo is unfortunately a team I regularly forget about. Free of Haas’s drama, or the perennial “maybe this will be the year” hopes of Williams, Alfa merely serves as this buffer between the very back of the grid and the midfield. And while other constructors receive a healthy rotation of new drivers, mostly thanks to bigger teams looking for seat vacancies to train their future stars, Alfa’s been stuck with two dudes who really haven’t given anyone much to talk about since Charles Leclerc was promoted to Ferrari. Kimi’s just sort of still there, and while Giovinazzi did well to equal his world champion teammate in points last year, I fear his time may be up to move to a garage with more opportunity.
Team principal Frédéric Vasseur says he’s eyeing the “top of the midfield” as a goal, though he knows it’s going to take many small steps to get there. We hope Alfa can make headway on that objective in 2021. Even if it doesn’t, hey — the car looks wonderful.