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Why AlphaTauri could be the surprise of the 2021 F1 season

AlphaTauri were one of the biggest winners of preseason testing with rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda setting the second-fastest time over the course of the three days in Bahrain. What does it mean for their prospects in 2021? We take a look.

With the sole preseason test for the 2021 Formula 1 season now firmly behind us, AlphaTauri have emerged as one of the potential surprises of the season. It would be fair to say that AlphaTauri had a very productive preseason test in Bahrain. The Faenza-based team, along with Alfa Romeo, completed the most number of laps over the course of the three days - 422 laps - and their rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda set a personal best time that left him just .092 back of Max Verstappen's lap time of 1.28.960 - the fastest over the course of the three days. The team were quick enough to win a race last year, albeit in mitigating circumstances, and in Pierre Gasly they arguably have one of F1's most underrated drivers, something their technical Jody Egginton is quick to point out. "We're super happy to have him (Gasly) as a driver," Egginton told RacingNews365.com in an exclusive interview. "Last year, he did a fantastic job as a driver and he's still improving and getting better. H e works well with our team and we know each other well enough that it's a benefit when trying to develop a car. "It's always good to have an experienced driver in the team but we know Pierre and that's an added benefit." Egginton also seems buoyant about the way AT02 performed over the course of the three days citing how the car is an evolution of their 2020 machine. "We understand the development, the rear end of the cars carry over so our philosophies on that part of the car is understood," Egginton continued. "The tyres are slightly different, but we can deal with it, we always tried to give ourselves enough options to be able to run the tyres in the window that we want. "The front of the car, the aero concepts that we bought, seemed to be delivering on what we expected. The key now is to understand that fully, and then try and develop the next step."

Another factor working in AlphaTauri's favour is their partnership with Honda. The Japanese manufacturer has supplied the team with engines since the 2018 season and the partnership is set to enter its fourth and final year. "It's been a good step (Honda's development on their 2021 engine), I mean Honda have worked on all fronts they're pushing the performance envelope, and there's some promising signs," Egginton explained. "On the packaging side, they've taken another step, its integrating even better into our chassis giving us more freedom which is good. "It's fantastic working with them, and there's no sign of anything other than them being flat out to maximize everything." One of the reasons for AlphaTauri's jump in pace could be the fact that the team now uses the same wind tunnel as their senior counterparts. Given the enforced limitation on the use of wind tunnels this season it made logical and economical sense for the two Red Bull outfits to share another resource. "The key is that we now fully understand the car and then develop the next step," Egginton explained. "Some of these developments give us more opportunities to develop the car during the season. But the changes we have made deliver exactly what we expect. "You have to maximize what you have, it's about how you spend the money, we have to ensure that every euro we spend is spent on the right thing." Despite being perceived as Red Bull's junior team, AlphaTauri have been known to punch above their weight. Last year the team achieved over 100 points for the first time in their history and given their disappointment in their seventh-place finish in the constructor's standings, there certainly isn't a lack of ambition within the team. If their testing pace is anything to go by, there is an argument to be made that the Red Bull funded team could spring another major surprise like they did at Monza last year.

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