Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur says that Alfa Romeo was at risk of shutting down last season, if not for the emergency cost-saving measures introduced by Formula 1 in response to the coronavirus epidemic.
Vasseur said that if the teams hadn’t reached agreement on pushing back new regulations, retaining the current cars for 2021 and limiting development work then it might have forced the former Sauber team out of the sport.
“We were in a such a tough situation that we had to,” he told Motorsport.com. “Thankfully that did happen, because I’m not sure that we would have been able to survive.”
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The decision was made after pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, meaning that teams already had some idea of how strong their 2020 cars were compared to the competition.
A development freeze inevitably hit those teams that weren’t faring as well as they had been hoping. “When you have the feeling that you are not performing in Barcelona, you are not keen to freeze the car for the next 18 months,” Vasseur acknowledged.
“We could also imagine at this stage that some teams would have been more drastically against that,” he continued. “It’s never easy to do a move because you’re always a bit scared that you could give an advantage to someone else or to another team.
Vasseur said that the extreme and completely unforeseen challenges of 2020 had forced F1 teams to band together and work more closely than every before.
“For sure it’s also in the tough times that you can see the solidarity of the group,” he said. “Less than before, it would have been difficult.
“In a couple of weeks we were able to do much more than what we did in the last 10 years with the reduction of the cost cap, the change of regulation,
“The fact that the FOM was able to build an incredible 17-race calendar in a couple of weeks, and the agility of all the teams to change from one calendar to another.
“So many things happened in such a short period that I think it was like a revolution into the mindset of F1,” he said. “Now we have to keep this mindset.
“We will probably have to face new issues in the future, and that means that when we are working together we are able to improve the situation quite fast.”
Alfa Romeo ended up in eighth place in the final constructors championship standings, with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi earning the squad a mere eight points across the season.
Much of that was blamed on problems with last year’s power unit supplied to the team by Ferrari as part of the deal that saw Sauber renamed Alfa Romeo from 2019.
Vasseur said that the partnership remained solid and was a crucial part of the team’s strategy heading into 2021.
“For us it’s crucial,” he insisted. “We are collaborating a lot on the automotive side now and I think it’s a good partnership for the company.”
“The fact that Alfa Romeo – the first world champion – is extending the deal with us and wants to develop the partnership is a nice reward. But it’s not just a reward, it’s a next step for us.”
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