2020 was the first season for Red Bull‘s ‘B team’ under its new AlphaTauri branding. Whilst the team formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso has always been a solid midfield contender, this year was one where they really surprised us a couple of times!
Whilst outgoing driver Daniil Kvyat mostly floundered in the midfield, the same cannot be said for his team-mate Pierre Gasly. Gasly had an incredible 2020, consistently finishing in the points and pulling out the performance of his career at Monza when he shocked the world and ended up winning the race! His win not only equalled Sebastian Vettel‘s achievement of winning for the same team and at the same circuit in 2008, but he also became the first French driver to win a Grand Prix since Olivier Panis won at Monaco in 1996.
The team also has a lot to look forward to in the future with a new driver coming into the fold and the potential of repeating its solid midfield results in 2021. However, like all teams, AlphaTauri had its bad weekends and gutting moments and it does seem like there were more lows than highs in this topsy-turvy season. Nevertheless, the future does look bright for the Faenza-based outfit!
Of course, you can’t talk about the good points of AlphaTauri’s 2020 season without talking about Gasly’s incredible Monza win. His win was definitely a surprise considering this is still very much the era of Mercedes domination, but it was a very welcome surprise nonetheless.
It wasn’t a fluke win either; Gasly took full advantage of the crazy situation and managed to expertly hold off McLaren F1 Team‘s Carlos Sainz Jr. as he bore down on him during the final stages of the race. Gasly has been a fan favourite driver ever since he stepped into the F1 fold and his win is one of the most universally applauded in recent memory. It’s also a win that’ll be remembered for decades to come, much like Vettel’s 2008 win has been.
Perhaps, like what happened with Vettel, it’s the first inkling of a driver who’ll become a multiple-time world champion? Or will he just be a one-off winner like fellow Frenchmen Panis and Jean Alesi? It’s a bit too early to tell right now, but I’m sure the future will tell us how things will pan out in time.
Despite Daniil Kyvat’s somewhat mediocre performances compared to his teammate, he did manage to finish a more than respectable 4th place at Imola. This was a silver lining to a cloud that could have been the team’s worst race of the season; despite qualifying really well in 4th place, Gasly ended up retiring during the race. Kyvat managed to pick up the pieces from Gasly’s retirement really well and more than likely saved the morale of the team a bit.
Unfortunately, as with any team, AlphaTauri did have some notable lows in 2020. Gasly’s car suffered quite a bit with reliability issues during the season; his retirements at the Hungaroring and Imola were entirely due to mechanical issues (a gearbox failure and a coolant leak respectively).
Perhaps the most scary moment caused by Gasly’s car being less than reliable was the engine catching fire during FP2 at Portimao, something that could have spelled disaster for Gasly’s weekend had he not recovered well enough to qualify in ninth place and finish in fifth. Another notable low for Gasly was him being caught up in the absolute chaos on the opening lap at Mugello, crashing out of the race and retiring as a result.
Istanbul Park in Turkey, a race that initially wasn’t on the Formula 1 calendar until the COVID-19 restrictions hit, was very much a low point for AlphaTauri in terms of performance. Both drivers qualified badly due to the circuit’s treacherous conditions and on Sunday they both finished outside of the points, Gasly coming thirteenth and Kvyat coming twelfth. It’s not such a low point as it could have been considering even the best drivers on the grid such as Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen were struggling with the almost oil-slick slipperiness of Istanbul Park, but it definitely was one of the team’s worst weekends of the entire season.
In a sense, it could be argued that AlphaTauri’s seventh place finish in the constructors’ championship was a bit of a low in itself. With Ferrari struggling so much in 2020 with its decidedly awful power unit, it could have been the opportunity AlphaTauri needed to jump up into proper midfield contention as a constructor. However, a string of mediocre race results from Kvyat combined with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc being able to drive his car to results that it shouldn’t have been able to achieve meant that, even with Gasly’s race win, AlphaTauri ended up being comparatively down on points by season’s end.
If Kvyat had been able to finish in the points more, perhaps AlphaTauri could have been much more of a challenge to the other midfielders in the constructors’ standings? It’s doubtful that Red Bull’s B team could have beaten Renault, but perhaps it could have just edged past F1’s longest-standing stalwarts during one of the lowest periods in its history.
The qualifying battle between Gasly and Kvyat is a bit of an interesting one. Despite Gasly quite obviously being the winner on Sunday most weekends, on Saturdays there were times when Kyvat was able to come close to or even outperform Gasly.
Kyvat qualified much higher on the ultra-fast Bahrain Outer Circuit and on the final Saturday of the season at Yas Marina, qualifying in sixth and seventh respectively compared to Gasly’s ninth and tenth. He also did much better than Gasly at Mugello, coming within a shot of cracking the top ten whilst Gasly had to make do with a disappointing sixteenth. Monza and Nurburgring were the rounds where both drivers came close to each other’s times, finishing only a position apart from each other. Gasly, however, was the man who delivered the best qualifying result overall for AlphaTauri. His fourth place at Imola was a fantastic qualifying result for the team, albeit one that was soured by him having to retire the car during the race.
Perhaps surprisingly to some, AlphaTauri was a regular participant in the hallowed top ten shootout that is Q3 on Saturday. Gasly managed to get into Q3 a very impressive eleven times during 2020’s seventeen race season, whilst Kyvat managed just four appearances. Both Gasly and Kvyat managed to make it into Q3 at Imola, both Bahrain races and at the Abu Dhabi finale, making AlphaTauri look very impressive indeed as a midfield team during the second half of the season.
When it comes to who came out on top on Sunday, the clear winner in camp AlphaTauri was Gasly. Gasly regularly finished in the points in 2020, with his best result obviously being his surprise victory in Monza. Unfortunately, he had a few strokes of bad luck with reliability and racing incidents during the 2020 season. His coolant leak during the race at Imola was especially unlucky; if he hadn’t experienced any problems during the race, he could have had a good chance of getting on the podium!
Although Kvyat finished more races than Gasly (he only failed to finish a race twice in 2020 and was still classified in the results anyway for the first of those as he completed more than 90% of the race distance), his race results weren’t anywhere near as good. Kyvat regularly finished outside of the top ten, with his dismal nineteenth place at Portimao being his worst result.
Having said that, he did beat Gasly in a few races. His fourth place at Imola that made up for Gasly’s retirement is nothing to be sniffed at and showed that he could still pull out very competitive results for a midfield team. He finished considerably higher than Gasly in the second race at the Red Bull Ring, just managing to get into the points when Gasly was far away from that, as well as beating him by one position at the second race at Silverstone, at Sochi and at Istanbul Park. He also managed to get a more than respectable seventh place on Bahrain’s fearsome Outer Circuit in a race where, despite qualifying in ninth place, Gasly fell off the pace and ended up finishing just outside the points.
It’s just a shame that the great results that Kyvat was able to pull off at points during the 2020 season didn’t happen more often for him. He presently has no known future in F1 or even motorsport in general and it’ll be somewhat of a shame to see him go. I did consider putting Kyvat’s loss of a race seat as a low point, but perhaps it was something that was warranted considering how convincingly Gasly was able to beat him on Sunday most weekends.
|Round||Gasly Qualifying||Gasly Race||Kvyat Qualifying||Kvyat Race|
What to look for in 2021
2021 looks like it’ll be a very important year for Scuderia AlphaTauri. Pierre Gasly will be remaining with the team for 2021 and it’s likely that he’ll continue on his run of very impressive performances. He’s previously demonstrated that he has the ability to push the car onto the podium and we should definitely expect him to be able to pull something like that off again in the coming season.
Perhaps, given another crazy situation like Monza, he could even pull off another race win? However, there are rumblings going around that 2021 could be Gasly’s last season for AlphaTauri and indeed his last as a Red Bull-backed driver. It’s glaringly obvious Gasly has the talent to get himself into a top team and, reportedly, the newly-christened Alpine F1 Team are very interested in acquiring his services in the near future. Whatever the case may be, expect Gasly to once again overdeliver!
There’s also the very exciting prospect of Red Bull’s latest golden child Yuki Tsunoda. The first Japanese driver to race in Formula 1 since Kamui Kobayashi, Tsunoda has proven to be a real force to be reckoned with in his junior career. He was the dark horse of the 2020 Formula 2 season, being able to legitimately compete with the Ferrari Driver Academy’s trio of Mick Schumacher (who will be racing alongside Tsunoda in F1 this year), Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman.
He’s also a genuinely great character who’s beloved by the fans and has raised more than a few eyebrows with his almost Fernando Alonso-levels of mouthy team radios! Whether Tsunoda will be able to genuinely compete with his team-mate or the other midfield drivers in his debut season is yet to be known, but if his junior career is anything to go by he definitely has the talent to get somewhere in F1.