AlphaTauri’s 2023 Formula 1 campaign was destined for disappointment before a late-season push saw it end on a high.
For a long time, it seemed to be on course for a finish at the root of the Constructors' Championship only to make a driver swap which changed the course of its campaign.
The Red Bull sister squad commenced the campaign with Yuki Tsunoda in his third year and rookie Nyck de Vries, who received his F1 break following championship success in Formula 2 and Formula E.
As has been the case in the past for AlphaTauri, there were in-season driver changes - but rather than disrupt the workflow, it made tangible improvements.
The introduction of Daniel Ricciardo offered a new perspective and a veteran voice to steer development was heard in the garage.
While most teams had switched focus to their 2024 cars late in the season, AlphaTauri continued with its development right up until the finale in Abu Dhabi with Ricciardo's input powering the way.
Its decision to continue the production of upgrades for the AT04 car proved valuable as it made a late jump from 10th to eighth in the Constructors' Championship, bettering its ninth-place finish from 2022.
AlphaTauri's highest result of the season came in Mexico City, where Ricciardo crossed the line in seventh. Having scored four top 10 finishes in the first 17 races, the final five events also saw it bag another four-point-scoring result - highlighting the fine development job undertaken by the team.
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Yuki Tsunoda, Nyck de Vries, Daniel Ricciardo and Liam Lawson
AlphaTauri fielded four drivers during the season and the changes were set in motion when de Vries was dropped after the British Grand Prix in favour of Ricciardo.
De Vries struggled to get up to speed at the Red Bull sister team despite his vast motorsport experience and super sub appearance for Williams at the Italian Grand Prix the year before.
Tsunoda easily out-performed de Vries, going 8-2 in both the qualifying and race head-to-head. However, it was clear that he would have a bigger challenge awaiting him when Ricciardo joined.
After a difficult two-year period at McLaren, Ricciardo seemed more of his old self at AlphaTauri and asserted that he is “in a happy” place following his uncomfortable stint away from the Red Bull family.
The duo of Tsunoda and Ricciardo produced strong performances in the closing stages of the season to propel up the championship order, with Tsunoda finishing both the qualifying and race head-to-heads 4-3.
Despite his strong impact at the team, Ricciardo's comeback didn't go as smoothly as expected as during FP2 at the Dutch Grand Prix he injured his hand in a crash and was ruled out for five events.
In his place stepped rookie Liam Lawson who made an immediate impact by navigating the tricky wet conditions in the Netherlands with little practice time.
In the races that followed, Lawson didn't simply fill a gap - he placed his name firmly into permanent F1 seat discussions due to his impressive run of performances that included a ninth-place finish in Singapore, which was AlphaTauri's best result at the time.
While Tsunoda edged out Lawson 3-2 in the qualifying battle, it was Lawson who came out on top in the races with a 3-1 score (the Italian Grand Prix was not counted as Tsunoda was forced to retire on the formation lap).
Tsunoda and Ricciardo will return to the line-up for 2024 while Lawson will once again play back-up. If their accomplishments this year are anything to go by, the team is set up nicely with its drivers for the upcoming campaign.
A new era in 2024
2023 marked the last year of the AlphaTauri name which made its debut in 2020l replacing the well-liked Toro Rosso moniker.
A new brand will commence a fresh era for the team who will operate under new management following the retirement of Franz Tost.
The Austrian has been at the helm of the squad ever since it took over Minardi in 2006 and has worked with several successful drivers including multi-World Champions Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
Laurent Mekies will take over the Team Principal role while ex-FIA senior member Peter Bayer will carry out duties in the CEO role.
Although he will not play a position in the team beyond the end of the year, Tost is working until the very end to put improvements in place for the future.
“The team still is not fully recruited, they’re still coming, some other aerodynamic people,” he said.
“Why I was pushing so much to bring the upgrades is to get an understanding of whether this new group goes in the right direction, on philosophy, because otherwise also next year would have been a problem.
“This is what I wanted to prevent under all circumstances. And the reason why everything came together in the second half of the year was simply because we didn't have these new people beforehand.”
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