2020 Italian Grand Prix winner Pierre Gasly is ready to take the role of team leader as he prepares to partner alongside rookie Yuki Tsuonda for 2021 F1 season.
Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda launched their challenger for the 2021 season – the AT02, becoming the second car since the team rebranded from Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2020.
Gasly and Tsunoda were present at their 2021 car launch as it was revealed in it’s all-new matte blue and white livery in their new showroom in Salzburg, Austria, and presented digitally due to current restrictions surrounding coronavirus.
Gasly, now in his fourth season in Formula 1, will become the veteran of the team after Danill Kyvat was replaced by youngster Tsuonda for 2021 season. The Frenchman, who became the team’s all-time top points scorer last season, is prepared to take the role of team leader ahead of the new season and assist his new team-mate along the way.
Speaking at the launch, he said: “Of course, Yuki’s arrival means I will have more responsibility within the team and I’m ready to take on the role of team leader. However, he is a very quick driver and he will help us move the team forward. I know Yuki, he is a competitive guy and showed what he can do in F2, that’s why he was promoted to F1 after just one year.
“We will work together to achieve that. He lacks experience, so it won’t always be easy for him, but I think he is talented and it will also be up to me and the team to lead the way. His arrival doesn’t really change my approach, which will be the same as last year, when we got the most out of what we had to work with at pretty much all the Grand Prix, apart from one or two.
“So, we must keep going with the same philosophy, as I really believe last year was the team’s best in terms of the way it worked, the development, the performance and in the way it managed the race weekends. I think that goes for me too and we just have to keep going like this to try and do a little bit better than we did last year.”
Since making his debut for Toro Rosso in 2017, Gasly has recorded two podiums for the Honda-powered team, including that spectacular maiden win at Monza in 2020. He endured a fantastic season last year, finishing tenth in the driver standings on seventy-five points, which was significantly more compared to the amount team-mate Kvyat accumulated across the season.
The twenty-five-year-old believed his tremendous 2020 campaign was down being more experienced on the track after completing his third season in Formula 1, and is even more motivated to achieve greater things in his fourth year.
“I put my good results last year down to being more experienced, as it was my third season in F1 and also the first time I had stayed for a second full season with the same team.
“I’d say it was mainly the continuity from 2019 that paid off, working with the same engineers, having a better understanding of what we are doing and as a team we all succeeded in exploiting the experiences from the previous two years.
“I’m always hungry for more, so I’m sure we can achieve great things also in 2021.”
Despite Gasly being pleased with his performances across the 2020 season, the Frenchman knows there is still room for improvement ahead of the new campaign.
“I think last year I did a very good job and I was able to drive the way I wanted and I managed to have an excellent relationship with my engineers, we understood what the team needed, what I needed and how to work together and that’s what brought the results.
“I was really satisfied, but there is still room for improvement, room for fine tuning. What you need over the whole year is to be consistent and to score at every opportunity. We need to see how the car goes in Bahrain and then we’ll know more. But the key will be consistency and not to make any mistakes.”
Although AlphaTauri, who were in their first-ever season in F1 since being rebranded, failed to match their record finish in the constructor standings from 2019, Gasly and Kvyat smashed the team’s best-ever points tally, scoring 107 points across the 17-race calendar in 2020 – previously set at 85 points from 2019.
With the 2021 F1 season just over a month away from getting underway in Bahrain, Gasly praised the 2020 car in their debut campaign but hopes the ATO2 can push them to front of midfield pack for the upcoming season.
He added: “The car did seem pretty good. Where we are in the mid-field, all the teams made a lot of progress and the gaps are very small. We finished seventh in the championship, but there were times when we were fighting to be the fourth or fifth best car in the field.
“We were fighting some very good teams that have big budgets and a lot of experience. Last year, we had a car that allowed us to fight with them and I got through to Q3 quite often. This year I hope we can make a step up, that will allow us to be nearer the front of the midfield.”
Gasly and Tsuonda will debut the ATO2 on track for the first time at pre-season testing in Bahrain, which is scheduled to take place on 12-14 March, ahead of the season opener at Bahrain International Circuit two weeks later.