The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda team come into 2021 with high hopes after a positive pre-season testing programme with their AT02 chassis.
Three days of testing is really not a lot, especially when its split evenly between the two drivers, and especially when one of those drivers is a rookie!
What Happened in 2020?
AlphaTauri had some tremendous performances during the 2020 season, their first in Formula 1 after a rebranding from Scuderia Toro Rosso, with the standout result obviously Pierre Gasly’s out of the blue but amazing victory in the Italian Grand Prix.
Yes, others may have fallen by the wayside, but the old cliché is, to finish first, first you have to finish. And Gasly did just that, keeping at bay McLaren F1 Team’s Carlos Sainz Jr. to take the chequered flag first, ironically at the same venue where Toro Rosso took their one victory with Sebastian Vettel back in 2008.
Gasly was one of the drivers of 2020, with strong drives throughout the year propelling him into the top ten in the championship standings. His fifth-place finish in the first Portuguese Grand Prix since 1996 was the result of a charging drive, as was his seventh-place finish in the British Grand Prix.
Team-mate Daniil Kvyat was often left in the shade by Gasly, finishing with less than half the amount of points of the Frenchman, but this did not mean he didn’t have some standout races. His performance, for example, in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was superb, with some great late passes enabling to finish fourth, just a few seconds shy of a podium.
AlphaTauri’s first year saw them finish seventh in the World Constructors’ Championship, and although they had the win, they will be rueing the fact they could not finish higher in the standings, particularly when Scuderia Ferrari were at their weakest.
What Has Changed at AlphaTauri…
The main change between 2020 and 2021 is in the driver department, with Kvyat being ousted once more from a drive in the sport. It is the third time Kvyat has been let go by Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri, but you have a feeling this one is the nail in the coffin for the Russian, who has joined the Alpine F1 Team as reserve driver.
Coming in to AlphaTauri Japanese racer Yuki Tsunoda, perhaps Japan’s best hope in recent years for success at the highest level of Formula 1. He is the first Japanese driver in Formula 1 since Kamui Kobayashi back in 2014, and he comes into the sport with great potential and as a multiple race winner in FIA Formula 2.
He was told to finish within the top four by Red Bull ahead of the 2020 season to just stay in the Red Bull Junior Team, and he did just that. Indeed, his third place in the standings could have been even better had he not had as much bad luck as he did. We could be talking about him as the champion!
Elsewhere at AlphaTauri, the management and engineering team remain pretty much intact, and the team have used their development tokens on the front nose and suspension for the AT02. The Honda engine is also an improvement of what they had last year, and the pace and performance they showed in pre-season testing in Bahrain was impressive.
What to Expect in 2021…
It would be wild to expect another victory for AlphaTauri in 2021, but you can expect a much stronger campaign all round for the Italian outfit. They have a solid line-up with Gasly and Tsunoda, and both should be challenging for points straight away.
Gasly enhanced his reputation last year, and it will now be up to him to consolidate that and again perform to the best of his abilities. Should he get the most out of the car, there is a good chance for the Frenchman to improve on his tenth place in the standings from last year. It would not be a surprise if we were to see him on the podium again, maybe more than once.
For Tsunoda, he will be looking to avoid making too many mistakes – he’ll make some, all rookies generally do – but it will be key to see how he learns from those errors. It shouldn’t take him too long to adapt to life in Formula 1, and by the end of the year, you could see him pushing Gasly hard in the inter-team battle.
The team will be looking for that breakthrough campaign to move them up the pecking order, and with Gasly and Tsunoda as their driver pairing and a strong-looking AT02 at their disposal, there is no reason why they couldn’t break into the top five in the Constructors’ Championship come the end of the season.