Scuderia AlphaTauri are a new name on the Formula 1 grid in 2020, but their foundations have long been engrained in the sport, having been Toro Rosso since 2006. They come into the year on the back of a strong campaign last year, having taken two podium finishes, one each for Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly in Germany and Brazil respectively, the first two podiums since Sebastian Vettel stormed to a surprise victory in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.
Gasly Looking to Prove Red Bull Wrong
Twelve months ago, Pierre Gasly was preparing for his debut with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, but twelve races later he found himself demoted back to Toro Rosso after failing to sparkle as Max Verstappen’s team-mate. But the second half of 2019 saw the Frenchman show just what he was made of with some strong-looking drives that ultimately helped him finish seventh in the final standings.
Gasly’s issue perhaps was trying too hard to match Verstappen in the second RB15 rather than focusing on his own driving style, with early crashes in pre-season testing and a few below par qualifying and race performances affecting his confidence. It is probably safe to say that Gasly was brought into Red Bull a little undercooked, and at times it showed.
On his Toro Rosso return, Gasly began to show just what he could do again. Relaxed knowing he was no longer expected to be running at the front of the field in what could be called an inferior car – the STR14 was no slow car but it wasn’t a RB15 – he remarkably found himself running at the front of the field in Brazil, capitalising on a late collision between his replacement at Red Bull, Alexander Albon, and Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s Lewis Hamilton, to claim an excellent second place finish.
Red Bull has given Gasly a lot of chances to prove himself throughout his career, right through junior categories and now into Formula 1. He needs another strong 2020 else he might find himself at a crossroads where his employers no longer consider him good enough. He has the talent, he just needs to show it on a regular and consistent basis, and who knows, the Red Bull drive might once again be within his grasp.
Kvyat Aiming to Continue Rebuild of Career
Much like Gasly, Daniil Kvyat has begun to rebuild his career with the team, with the Russian having tasted champagne during 2019 when he finished third in the mixed conditions in Germany. A tyre change gamble that day paid dividends, and it showed everyone, not least himself, that he does belong in Formula 1.
Everyone knows, again including Kvyat, that this is his last chance with AlphaTauri, having begun there in 2014 before making a move up to Red Bull a year later. However, his stint with Red Bull lasted only one season and four races before a certain young Dutchman named Verstappen took his seat. His confidence was heavily affected by his demotion back to Toro Rosso, and during his second stint there it did not come back, and he was dropped midway through 2017.
A year as a reserve driver with Scuderia Ferrari seemed to revive him, and he was handed a third opportunity with Toro Rosso last year, one that he appeared to grasp as he began to show flashes of just what Red Bull saw in him initially. This year, he needs to build on those flashes, bring his a-game to each and every race and fight. His career, at least within the Red Bull stable, depends on it.
Can the AT01 Fight at the Front of the Midfield?
The Honda powered AT01 looked good throughout pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, running virtually problem free throughout the six days of running as Gasly and Kvyat completed seven hundred and sixty-nine laps between them.
Neither driver ended inside the top ten of the fastest times of the test, but you cannot really read anything into this. The positivity coming from the drivers, engineers and engine supplier, however, can tell a different story, and there is hope that the AT01 can regularly be at the front of the midfield battle.
The Honda power unit continues to evolve and get stronger, which can only be a benefit to both AlphaTauri and the sister team at Red Bull, and the team go into 2020 with high hopes of a strong campaign.
What Can AlphaTauri Achieve in 2020?
Momentum is strong in sport, and AlphaTauri come into 2020 on the back of perhaps Toro Rosso’s strongest season to date. They finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, not that far behind the Renault F1 Team, and they have higher ambitions this season.
Whilst the AT01 is not going to be running at the front of the field, to be fair, it would be difficult to achieve this with the regulations unchanged, AlphaTauri are likely to be one of the stronger midfield teams, and they have to be aiming to improve on their results of last season. They have two talented drivers, a good workforce and a car that looks to be better than its predecessor, so they could find themselves fighting for points every weekend and taking the odd podium again should the frontrunners capitulate.