Pierre Gasly has ruled out AlphaTauri's chances of fighting for podiums in 2022, with his expectation being that the team will not be able to break into the top four.
The Red Bull sister outfit had a strong season in 2021, mainly in thanks to Gasly, who claimed 110 of the squad's 142 points, putting them P6 in the Constructors' Championship.
Gasly set the pace on the opening day of the recent pre-season Bahrain test, but insists that AlphaTauri still have a lot of work to do.
"We've done a lot," Gasly explained in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com.
"We are in an okay place. Obviously [we] always want to be better. At the moment [there are] things [where] I feel the car doesn't really react the way that I like. The front of the car is not as strong as I like.
"I still need to figure out how to make the best out of this new regulation [change], so I think it's hard for everyone. Looking down the pit lane, I don't think there's one team [that] was really pleased with their car. But we know we've got some work to do."
Where does Gasly expect AlphaTauri to place in pecking order?
When asked about AlphaTauri's prospects for 2022, Gasly joked: "I think I would not bet on ourselves for the championship. This will be a safe bet."
The Frenchman has ruled out the possibility of battling for podiums, but, on whether the team can secure some good points, he explained: "I hope so. At the moment it is difficult to say. [We] don't have the precise information.
"Let's say we know that we've got some work to do, and whether we're going to be on the upper part of the midfield or on the bottom, this we don't know."
Gasly is not expecting the squad to be able to battle any further up than the midfield, adding: "I think the top four is not going to change."
Instead the driver anticipates that AlphaTauri will be between the P5 and P7 mark in terms of the Constructors' Championship.
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Gasly expects surprises, but top teams' advantage "won't disappear"
There has been an expectation amongst some that the budget cap in place for the 2022 season may help in levelling out the playing field between bigger and smaller teams.
Gasly acknowledges that this may enable smaller outfits to occasionally gain opportunities, but he does not expect it to take away from the advantage of the leading names in the sport.
"I think we're clearly going to have some surprises," the one-time race winner said.
"But one thing that is sure is that all the knowledge, the facilities, the efficiency that the top teams have built over the last few years, [is] not going to disappear.
"So with 50 million, what they are able to do is actually 130 percent of what we can do, because our tools are maybe not as efficient or as precise.
"So it's something that is difficult to quantify, but that won't change just by saying, 'Okay, you guys have got the same money'.
"But still, I think it does give more chances for smaller teams to do well, and that's why I'm not discarding that midfields teams could win races this season, and we could see that happening."
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