AlphaTauri had reason to be optimistic ahead of Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix. With Pierre Gasly qualifying in sixth, for a sixth time in 2021, the Faenza based team was looking forward to another promising haul of points. Meanwhile, with Gasly’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda showing consistency too, the Japanese rookie was expected to deliver the goods - albeit it from 11th on the grid after picking up a penalty. The key to this turnaround in performance from the AT02, according to Technical Director Jody Egginton, is that the car is now ‘less lazy’.
After a strong qualifying which demonstrated the team’s progress – Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix was a different story. Whereas Yuki Tsunoda would eventually cross the line in 10th, his teammate, Pierre Gasly, had retired from the race by the end of lap one after contact with Charles Leclerc on the opening lap.
AlphaTauri’s Technical Director Jody Egginton told the team’s official website, scuderiaalphatauri.com, after Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix:
“Clearly, we are disappointed to only have one car finishing the race today, following the puncture and rear suspension damage suffered by Pierre, but we have managed to score with Yuki which is a positive step forward for him. This has limited, to some extent, the points lost to other teams in the Championship, but at the same time we were understandably hoping for more, given our starting positions. The pace we have shown here has been consistently quite good across sessions. So, looking forward to next weekend’s race, the objective remains to secure good grid positions and to score points with both cars.”
Such expectation is a far cry from the performance seen in Spain and Portugal this year when the AT02 seemed to be having trouble negotiating low-speed corners.
On Sunday in his post-race comments to the media, Jody Egginton, used the phrase "less lazy" to describe the way the AT02 can now perform in low-speed corners. This aspect of performance has been key to the team’s recent running on track.
"After Portugal and Spain we had some concerns on our low-speed performance," Egginton said in Austria. "We were not fantastically happy. Then we went into Monaco and we played around with a setup a bit. It's a bit of a unique circuit and you can't always take too many conclusions, but we thought we did some sensible learning there.”
AlphaTauri’s sensible learning let the team assess where to address performance of their car.
"And then our attention focused to a few of the balances and trying to get the car to be a little bit less lazy and rotate better in the medium speed, and [in] Baku we had good car rotation at low-speed corners, the car seemed to rotate quite nicely.”
"We sort of put all that together and knowing the nature of this place, not so much low-speed content, a lot of medium speed, and you need a good stability and rotation and it's all come together," Egginton explained. "So, there's a full story. I think the engineers have put everything together, all of the lessons we've learned in recent events, and it's worked quite well. We feel we've got a better understanding. We've answered a few questions and the car's going quicker as a result of it."
The AT02 is indeed going quicker and this has resulted in the team sitting eighth in the drivers' championship with Pierre Gasly. A position the Frenchman has maintained despite Sunday’s ‘pointless’ drive. Gasly is a mere 3 points ahead of McLaren’s - yet to fire on all cylinders - Daniel Ricciardo. As such, Gasly has a real fight on his hands to stay there and it will no doubt be great to watch.
With AlphaTauri sat 5th in the Constructors’ Championship with a two-point gap over Scuderia Ferrari, the Faenza based outfit is looking forward to a second attempt around the Red Bull Ring as they hope to transform performance into points. Therefore, do not be surprised to see Sunday’s upcoming Austrian Grand Prix result in further success for the so-called sister team of Red Bull Racing.
Should AlphaTauri retain 5th in the Constructors’ championship by the culmination of the 2021 F1 season, they will know it was down to hard work and the questions they asked of themselves early on. Thereby showing everyone that the minds behind AlphaTauri – are far from lazy.