The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda team had a good qualifying session at the 2020 Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom circuit. Pierre Gasly will start in ninth position and Daniil Kvyat will be in twelfth position on the grid in the race on Sunday.
Gasly was brought with a crash to the ground at the Tuscan Grand Prix after the highs of his unexpected first Grand Prix victory at the Italian Grand Prix. The French driver is looking to make amends to his disappointing outing at the previous race when he crashed out in the first lap. Gasly had a good qualifying session and said: “I’m really happy today because yesterday’s free practice sessions were pretty difficult compared to usual. We didn’t really get the performance we wanted on the short runs, so we were not that confident for Qualifying.
“Therefore, I think we can be pretty pleased with our position on the grid for tomorrow. I think we have a good race car, our high fuel runs were strong and the balance was how I wanted it to be. We know that the other midfield teams are pretty fast, but hopefully in the race we can keep up with them and fight. We saw so many things happening recently in the races, so hopefully there will be a few opportunities tomorrow.”
Kvyat was once again outqualified by his team-mate Gasly and said: “It was a strong session and I’m quite satisfied with the result because we can fight from that position tomorrow. I think it will be an interesting race that will provide a lot of opportunities, but we were just very unlucky with the red flag in Q2.
“I think if our session wasn’t interrupted, we could have made it to Q3. I felt good with the car today, and yesterday wasn’t too bad either as our race pace looks quite competitive, so we’ll make the most out of any chances that come our way to fight for points in the race.”
Jonathan Eddolls, the AlphaTauri Chief Race Engineer, described the efforts put in by the team to improve their one-lap pace which led to an improved performance during the Saturday qualifying session: “We were quite happy with our long-run pace yesterday but less so with the short-runs, so that was the main focus of our work overnight, trying to find some more pace without impacting the long runs. We made several changes to the cars and we were one of the teams that had two option tyres in FP3, so we were able to do some good qualifying preparation and test various items to make sure the changes made were working.
“They appeared to be a good step in the right direction, and although the timesheets didn’t truly reflect our performance, we were quite confident that we had a reasonable car heading into Qualifying. This track in Qualifying is always quite difficult with everyone bunching up in the last sector and, as we saw, the traffic was one of the key points in the session, so trying to put the drives in a good position was a big focus for us. We didn’t have any drama in Q1, and Q2 was looking promising for both cars.
“We could have had two cars into Q3, but with the red flag, our tyre preparation suffered due to the small amount of time remaining in the session, so we went out and led most of the pack to try and improve. Pierre managed to get enough margin and was safe, but Dany got knocked out by around 50 milliseconds. It’s disappointing for him in his home race not to make it by such a small margin, but starting in P12 with free tyre choice actually brings some advantages for tomorrow, particularly with our race pace.
“Pierre gave it his all in Q3 and put in a good lap, but the others in front have just got a little bit more pace than us, and that was probably a fair reflection of where we are as a team. It’s great to get a car into Q3 and overall it was a good Qualifying session. Now we look forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow in the race.”
The AlphaTauri team will aim to have a double-point finish in the race and close the gap to the Scuderia Ferrari team for sixth position in the constructors’ championship.