Continuing the team reviews for the 2021 season. Going in reverse Constructor’s Championship order with Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda. Previous team reviews can be viewed here:
10. Haas Ferrari
The changes they were permitted to make were predominately focused on the nose and suspension. Most importantly for the team’s hopes was the upgraded Honda engine. The Team Boss suggested that they could be up towards the front of the midfield.
The upgraded Honda engine definitely looked a good step forward in performance. In Pierre Gasly, the team have the driver most consider the best driver outside of the top teams. A driver who had spent 2020 rebuilding his career after being kicked out of the Red Bull seat.
Coming into 2021, optimism was high within AlphaTauri. The team hoping to move further up the Constructor’s standings.
Pierre Gasly’s teammate was to be highly rated rookie Yuki Tsunoda. Red Bull and Honda had both supported him through his career and into Formula 1.
Yuki had finished 3rd in the 2020 Formula 2 season. He had suffered some really bad luck meaning he could of potentially competed for the title without it. Though it must be said that, as a Japanese driver, Honda really wanted to see him on the Formula 1 grid before they left the sport.
4th was asking a lot with a rookie in the team. Rookies are expected to make some mistakes, though the hope would be he didn’t make too many and was close to Gasly’s performance.
As effectively the junior team to Red Bull, it’s very unlikely they will ever be as quick as Red Bull. The smarter staff and more ingenious ideas would usually move to the bigger team.
However, if they can fight at the front of the midfield. They might be in a position to help Red Bull in a championship battle at times. Being further up is also a much better position for your sponsors.
Pre-season testing showed the car was in a good place. Definitely in the fight with Ferrari and McLaren. Maybe slightly behind them in terms of pace, but testing can be unreliable to compare. On certain tracks, AlphaTauri could be ahead of the other midfield teams and behind on others.
The first race of the season in Bahrain did not go to plan for Gasly. He was involved in an incident with Daniel Ricciardo and ended up not finishing the race. In contrast, Yuki shined, grabbing points on his first race with the team. According to Ross Brawn he is one of the best rookie’s in F1 for years!
After Bahrain the tables turned quite massively….
Gasly showed the pace he had when he was keeping out of incidents. Consistently putting the car high up on the grid, competing with Ferrari and McLaren, potentially out performing the car.
Some races Gasly was fighting for the second row on the grid in qualifying, he was getting so much out of the car. For the 2021 season, Gasly earned himself over 100 points for the first time in his career.
The calls for Gasly to earn a recall to Red Bull grew even more this season. If he doesn’t get it for 2023 he surely needs to look elsewhere.
Sainz left AlphaTauri (Torro Rosso back then) when he couldn’t see a call up to Red Bull coming. He has since managed to get himself into a top team at Ferrari. Maybe Gasly needs to look at doing the same.
For Yuki, there were a lot of mistakes. Not getting the time in qualifying to escape Q1 or Q2, followed by struggles to score points in the races. He was getting involved in too many scrapes which ruined his races.
About a quarter of the way through the season. The decision was made that Yuki needed to move away from the Red Bull factory in the UK and move closer to the AlphaTauri factory in Italy. Along with the move, a strict programme of gym training, technical work and English language was put in place to help turn Yuki’s performances around.
There were still hiccups through the rest of the season, but it seems like the change worked well for Yuki. He got his head down, improved his confidence and the results started to come.
Confidence in the car meant his qualifying still wasn’t quite there, but the team gave him the chances and he started reaching Q3. Most of the time on the less preferable soft tyre, but it was all steps in improving his confidence.
The last 3 races were back in the desert. Like in Bahrain, Yuki had some of the best races of his season. A strong final race in Abu Dhabi ended with Yuki overtaking Bottas on the last lap. It definitely seems like Yuki has a preference for the desert races.
2022 is possibly not the reset for AlphaTauri that a lot of the other teams are looking at. They have been making consistent progress over the years. Being the junior team to Red Bull means it’s unlikely to be realistic that they will ever be at the front of the grid.
For 2022, the aim is for Yuki to continue his improvements and perform at a level closer to Gasly. The team can then look to score consistent strong points and finish as the top midfield team.
AlphaTauri will also want to hold onto Gasly for as long as they can, but it can only really be a matter of time untill the traditional bigger teams come calling.
The clear high point has to be Baku, with Gasly taking the AlphaTuari to their only podium of the season.
A lot of the high points were qualifying results for Gasly. In the Mexico GP where Ferrari had hoped to be strong, Gasly was never really challenged in the race, finishing a clear 4th.
A strong qualifying result for Yuki in Austin to make it into Q3 showed the new strategy was working for him.
Another 4th place went to Yuki in the last race of the season, with Gasly in 5th just behind. The team will be hoping that kind of performance continues into 2022.
For Gasly, only the first race crashing into Riccardo stands out, as he was strong all year.
Yuki was relatively weak for a lot of the year, which means there were a few low points compared to Gasly’s performances. None that really stood out below all the others. When Yuki improved, it is easier to point out low points, a clumsy tangle with Sebastian Vettel in Brazil shows there is still room to learn.
One note is the race in Qatar, where the car seemed to use up its left front tyre far quicker than any of the other teams. AlphaTauri couldn’t even make a 2 stop work, whereas most other teams tried a 1 stop strategy. The team are still a little lost to what the cause was and will hope it was very track specific.
What do you think were the High and Low points for AlphaTauri? Let us know below and take a look at our 2022 car launch articles
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