Pierre Gasly’s first attempt at an F1 Grand Prix in Austria during 2021 was over before the end of lap one after contact with Charles Leclerc during the Styrian Grand Prix. Having qualified sixth for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, hopes were high for the Frenchman second time around. Unfortunately though, after a two-stop strategy, the best Gasly could muster on his second venture around the Red Bull Ring in 2021 – was ninth. Pierre Gasly believes that the strategy needs to be revised as the pace of the AT02 deserved a lot better than ninth.
Pierre Gasly had yet another superb qualifying session this past Saturday in Austria. The Frenchman’s pace was only 0.058 seconds slower than Valtteri Bottas on Saturday and as a result expectation was high for the ‘sister team’ of Red Bull Racing.
However, as the race concluded, Pierre Gasly would cross the line ninth and 61.844s down on race winner Max Verstappen. In his evaluation of his race performance, Gasly stated that strategy was the error.
As a result of starting on the softest tyre compound, Pierre Gasly found the tyre degradation too much and consequently, having required two pitstops during the race, dropped from 5th to 18th. Despite utilising the pace of the AT02, Gasly was held up in traffic which allowed his on track rivals to leapfrog him as the race drew on and most importantly as a result of the majority of them single stopping during the race.
“We thought we will probably benefit a bit more from this two-stop, and it turned out that it was not ideal,” Gasly reflected. “Looking at the Aston Martin on the same strategy, looking at Yuki [Tsunoda] and myself, we seemed to struggle a bit more. But we still came really close to the Ferraris, which had a very good race pace last weekend.”
The pace of the AT02 was clearly seen in the way that Gasly ensured Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc could not rest on his laurels as the race concluded, though the Monegasque did remain in 8th position just under 7 tenths ahead of Gasly at the chequered flag.
“I think it’s still a good day but came really close to Charles. I would have liked to try something, but unfortunately I missed a lap.” Gasly commented to the media after Sunday’s Austrian GP.
AlphaTauri had already outlined early on that a two stop strategy would benefit the team best. Gasly’s comments on Sunday prove that the team knew the path they wanted to take early on after Friday’s Free Practice sessions:
“We had to commit Friday night. We didn’t feel like we had the pace to do it [on medium tyres]. In terms of strategy we need to look at the numbers and see our approach of the weekend.
“But McLaren made it work, Daniel [Ricciardo] starting from P13, managed to come back quite well with the one-stop. So there were some positives clearly to do the one-stop, but we’ll have to revise it.”
With the softest tyre compound degrading fast during his first stint, any hope Gasly had of extending his mileage in the vain hope of being able to make a one-stop strategy work - was put to bed quickly. The Frenchman would enter the pits as early as lap 13:
“After five laps I was already really struggling with the rear. I tried to extend [but it] wasn’t really the tyre to race on, so that’s why we switched quite early on, on the hard tyre. Obviously you come through traffic so you lose a bit of lap time here and there. But at the end, the last stint was really strong coming back on the Ferraris and the McLarens so at least it was a positive.”
Having concluded a triple-header, AlphaTauri can now compose their thoughts and take a well earned rest before hoping to bounce back at Silverstone. The British Grand Prix will also be the first event to feature sprint race qualifying and the pace Gasly showed in the latter stages of Sunday’s Austrian GP should fill him with confidence.
AlphaTauri currently sit 5th in the Constructors’ Championship on 48 points. With Scuderia Ferrari sitting 4th on 122 points, the team formerly known as Toro Rosso, is certainly looking behind rather than in front. A resurgent Aston Martin Formula One Team is now just 4 points behind and has Red Bull Racing’s sister team firmly in its sights.
Strategy is key in Formula One and Sunday’s two-stop approach was a mistake for AlphaTauri but hindsight is a wonderful thing. One thing is for sure, the team cannot make many more mistakes of the sort if they wish to remain the superior ‘midfield’ team in 2021.