AlphaTauri punched above their weight in 2020 and are searching for a similar season with their exciting duo of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda. Technical director Jody Egginton believes last year’s machine was “the best car to be produced by the team” so can AlphaTauri reproduce the goods again?
All the ingredients are there to replicate the success of last year.
Honda's final hurrah
Each team can use up to two ‘tokens’ if they wanted to make major changes to their car. AlphaTauri have elected to use their tokens on a new nose and a redesigned front suspension.
A pivotal part of the car which will dictate the Italian-based squad’s campaign is the Honda power unit. This year is Honda’s last season in the sport before Red Bull take over the running of their engines.
Honda have brought forward a major update that was originally planned for 2022 in an attempt to cut the gap to Mercedes’ engine.
“In order to improve power and reliability, we have made modifications to the ICE, turbine and ERS,” said Honda’s F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe. “This is our fourth year with Scuderia AlphaTauri and in order to improve as a whole, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire PU.”
Reliability is key for AlphaTauri and Red Bull if they want to improve on last season’s results. AlphaTauri had no issues with their engine in 2020 which was a big reason for their success.
Gasly's brilliant bounce back
Another factor for AlphaTauri's success was the resurgence of Gasly. Having been dropped by Red Bull in the middle of 2019, Gasly has bounced back in style.
Now a race-winner in Formula 1, Gasly is ready to lead the team having got his career back on track. Whilst his victory in Monza will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport, Gasly’s consistency especially in the first dozen races of the season was just as impressive as his win.
Gasly is expected to face stiff competition from his new teammate Yuki Tsunoda who is one of the most talented drivers to come from Asia.
Japan's new star
Tsunoda has sky-rocketed his way to F1, having raced in Europe for just two years. In 2019, he was thrown into the deep end into a highly competitive FIA Formula 3 Championship before moving up to F2 a year later.
Despite having to learn the tracks and new language as well as adapting to European life, Tsunoda has taken it all in his stride.
Four pole positions and three wins saw Tsunoda’s stock rise substantially in a star-studded F2 field. His ability to learn quickly will be handy during his first race weekends.
Gasly should have the better of Tsunoda early on but if the Japanese driver can get up to speed and on top of the new car and Pirelli rubber, the Frenchman will have to watch out.
What to expect from AlphaTauri in 2021
Team principal Franz Tost has overseen AlphaTauri (previously called Toro Rosso) since 2006. He has seen the likes of Sebastien Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen come through the ranks before going on to become stars of the sport.
Tost holds Tsunoda in high regard and thinks it will take just a few races before he is very competitive.
"With Pierre on Yuki’s side we have an experienced driver, who can help our Japanese rookie to develop faster, but at the same time we can aim for good results,” said Tost. "I think this pair is the best possible scenario to achieve both our targets and I’m also confident this will be a successful one."
AlphaTauri’s target is to score points at every event to challenge Ferrari, Alpine and Aston Martin in what should be another manic midfield battle.
The team are yet to finish in the top five of the constructors’ standings in their 15 seasons in F1. It would be a monumental achievement if they could finally accomplish this feat in 2021.
They had a great pre-season test with Gasly topping the mileage charts whilst Tsunoda lit up the timing screen during the final hour of testing in Bahrain. It would be a surprise if AlphaTauri are as strong as they looked in testing but don’t expect it because their long run pace was not as impressive as Tsunoda’s qualifying simulations on the final day.
“Our target for this year is to consistently be at the top of this midfield pack and to improve further," added Tost. "To achieve this, we have to avoid reliability issues and finish all races in the points.
“This can only happen if we do not make any mistakes, so we have to be 100% concentrated on our job, race after race, on and off the track, because our competitors are hard to fight."
The opening half of the season could be crucial for AlphaTauri to score points as they have traditionally been out-developed by their midfield rivals.
Their Gasly-Tsunoda line-up is arguably their best driver pairing since Verstappen-Sainz in 2015 and the first four races of 2016. It’s an exciting time for the team and they could be a dark horse at the start of the season.