After an extremely promising start to the season for Scuderia AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly believes that the team has the potential to fight for big points consistently this season.
Gasly suffered an unfortunate setback at the Bahrain GP when he made contact with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in the opening laps of the race, which then forced the Frenchman to pit and spend his evening battling down the order, in the end deciding to retire the car and fight another day. But Gasly’s fifth place in qualifying on Saturday undeniably showed that AlphaTauri’s Honda-powered AT02 is a force to be reckoned with in F1’s disputed midfield.
“Apart from the collision with Daniel, the Bahrain weekend went well, with a lot of positives to take from it.” said Gasly. “In all the free practice sessions we were front runners and a top five in Qualifying was one of our best ever results.
“Overall, in terms of performance and speed, it is very encouraging for the rest of the season, starting with Imola this weekend. From what we saw in Bahrain, it seems we have a package that will allow us to fight for the big points and there is no reason for that not to be the case for the coming races.”
Imola is a home race for AlphaTauri which performed well in F1’s previous visit to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari last November, when Gasly qualified an impressive fourth place while teammate Daniil Kvyat crossed the checkered fourth on race day. The team also shook down its 2021 contender at Imola last month, so the familiar territory should mean the Italian outfit are well set-up for the race to come.
“Now we head to Imola, which is one of my favourite circuits. I love it. It is technical with a lot of fast corners which allows you to get into a rhythm and you are always busy as it is quite twisty. Last year at this track I got my best ever Qualifying with the team, on the second row.
“Unfortunately, that race ended early with a problem while I was lying fifth, but it was a very good weekend up until then, so now I’m keen to get back there and make up for last year’s disappointment.”
Gasly is confident that AlphaTauri can make up some strong points this season, but is under no illusions that AlphaTauri will not be the only team making strong strides after the two week break between races.
“The team has worked hard since the first race, as there are still areas where we can improve, even if we are clearly on the pace at the moment. But this early in the season, we can expect everyone to make progress as they get to understand their cars better and how to optimise them. So, we have to work hard to keep moving forward.”
Japanese Fans not yet excited by Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda is one of the hottest properties in F1 right now despite him having just a single Grand Prix event under his belt. He made waves already in the offseason, but since his debut in Bahrain, he has seen a major increase in his popularity amongst F1 fans.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri driver impressed everyone with his maiden points finish at the Bahrain GP. It was only a confirmation of his clear talent, and it has played a major role in increasing his follower count across his social media handles.
Across both Instagram and Twitter, he has gained approximately 152,000 followers since the last week of March. Yuki could see a pattern among those followers, with the main focus of the increase seeming to come from Europe rather than his native Japan. Tsunoda was surprised by such a dramtic increase, but seemed unsurprised at where the increase had come from.
“It was interesting that after Bahrain, I think I got a bigger reaction from European fans than from those in Japan. It’s a cultural thing: Japanese fans want to see what I do in a few rounds before getting a proper impression.”
The pressure is on Tsunoda to keep up this rise in popularity with strong performances this season, especially in the Honda-powered AT02 which has been performing so well so far. But the Japanese starlet is not feeling the pressure so far.
“I was surprised at that reaction in Europe. I didn’t expect it, because for me, Bahrain was not a perfect weekend and I was hoping to finish higher, I am happy about the fans’ support, but I don’t feel pressure because of it, I take it as something positive and this weekend I will just get on and do my job.”