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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 18: Valtteri Bottas of Finland, Team Alfa Romeo F1 C42 Ferrari during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 18, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Alfa Romeo “sacrificed” race to “make life difficult” for Aston Martin to maintain P6

Alfa Romeo went into the final race in Abu Dhabi five points ahead of Aston Martin in the constructors' championship

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Alfa Romeo had the intention of “making life difficult” for Aston Martin in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Both teams were fighting for sixth in the constructors’ championship.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 20: Zhou Guanyu of China driving the (24) Alfa Romeo F1 C42 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 20, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Zhou Guanyu defended hard against Vettel and Stroll during the race (Image Credit: Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The Swiss team were not in a good position after qualifying. Valtteri Bottas was knocked out in Q1, qualifying in 18th place. As for Zhou Guanyu, the Chinese driver could only manage 15th, showing a lack of pace in the Alfa Romeo car.

Elsewhere, their rivals Aston Martin had a good qualifying session. Sebastian Vettel managed to qualify in ninth place on his final Formula 1 qualifying session. Lance Stroll qualified in 14th – just ahead of Zhou.

Due to the bad result in qualifying, Alfa Romeo had no choice but to do anything to stop Aston Martin scoring six or more points in Abu Dhabi. The difference between sixth and seventh in the constructors’ championship is $12 million.

Bottas “defensive” long stint

The Finn driver decided to start the race on the hard compound tyre. The 33-year-old had the intention of going long on his first stint. The only other driver who started on the hard tyre was Kevin Magnussen.

Bottas was able to hold up Sebastian Vettel after the German made his one and only stop of the race. However, the Alfa Romeo driver locked up into Turn Six, allowing the four-time world champion to easily get past.

The Finn revealed after the race that the hard tyres were used for a “defensive” stint. The main aim was to hinder Aston Martin’s progress up the field as much as possible.

“I think today ultimately we didn’t have that much pace but also my strategy was very defensive so just always trying to be good towards the end of my first stint, and when the green cars come through we wanted to play with them,” Bottas said.

“In the end it was too close with the points but I’m so glad we got it.

Bottas confirmed that the plan was intentional, saying:

“[The hard strategy was] to wait for the Astons to stop and come through, and then we make their life difficult.”

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 20: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Alfa Romeo F1 C42 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 20, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Bottas did all he could to prevent Aston Martin’s progress (Image Credit: Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Strategic pitstops from Alfa Romeo

Zhou Guanyu also played his part in defending hard against the green cars. The Chinese driver also revealed that the Swiss team planned their stops to give McLaren and Alpine a clearer pitstop window.

The 23-year-old stopped early, despite his tyres still being fresh, to undercut both Aston Martin drivers and then hold them up.

Zhou was asked by Motorsport.com about the team’s strategy in the race. The Chinese driver responded: “I mean, the whole race was quite clear with the situation – if we can’t beat them on track then we sacrifice the positions to let the McLarens and Alpines clear that window.

“So that was the case today. I stopped early, while the tyre was still fresh, but then we could be undercut by Sebastian and Lance, then we try to basically hold them up as much as possible to make a more clear window for others.

“I think it was very important that we were able to achieve that. We really gave everything out there today, and really happy for the team.”

The 23-year-old had an intense battle with Lance Stroll. The Canadian ended up overtaking Zhou off the track, resulting in the place having to be given back. This costed the Aston Martin driver three seconds.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 18: Lance Stroll of Canada Team Aston Martin AMR22 Aramco-Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 18, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Stroll made a two-stop strategy work to finish in eighth place (Image Credit: Heuler Andrey/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Did Vettel’s strategy cost Aston Martin $12 million?

The German started the race from the highest grid position out of the four drivers. However, the four-time world champion could only score one point on his final Formula 1 race.

Whilst every driver around him, except Ricciardo, opted for a two-stop strategy. Aston Martin put the 35-year-old on a one-stop strategy, costing the team dearly.

Whilst other drivers pitted earlier, Vettel was left out until lap 25 on the medium tyres. The German vented his frustration, saying he was a “sitting duck” as many drivers overtook the Aston Martin driver.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 20: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Aston Martin AMR22 Mercedes leads Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine F1 A522 Renault on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 20, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Vettel was battling the Alpine’s at the beginning of the race (Image Credit: Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The loss of time resulted in Vettel filtering back out in 19th place on the hard tyre. More time was costed with battling Bottas and Zhou when fighting back through the field.

His teammate Lance Stroll was able to pit again and breeze past on fresher tyres to finish in eighth place. However, Vettel had the chance of getting Ricciardo for ninth to seal sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Despite getting close, the German could not get past the Australian, resulting in Alfa Romeo maintaining sixth as both teams finished level on points.

Vettel struggled many times in the race to make overtakes with the Aston Martin being the slowest car on the straights. The 35-year-old struggled to get past Esteban Ocon earlier on in the race.

The Heppenheimer was not happy with his strategy overall, saying: “How did we get the strategy so wrong?” The Aston Martin driver was also on a bad strategy in Sao Paulo after not being put onto soft tyres at the end of the race, costing the German seventh place.

Feature Image Credit: Heuler Andrey/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

 

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