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AlphaTauri started the 2022 Formula 1 season with their already familiar driver duo, Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly. How did Tsunoda do in his second year? Was Gasly able to improve on his strong 2021 performance?
In 2021, AlphaTauri finished the season in a remarkable 6th place with 142 points in the Constructors’ Championship. Gasly collected 110 of those points, and Tsunoda 32. In 2022, the tide turned for the team, for the worse: AlphaTauri failed to improve over the year and ended up ninth in the Constructors’ Championship. They could only collect 35 points in total.
What went wrong for AlphaTauri?
The pre-season testing in Barcelona and Bahrain went well. The mood in the team from Faenza was positive and hopeful.
Gasly explained ahead of the first grand prix in Bahrain:
“The new car gives you some very different sensations to the previous one, but in some ways, it’s not so different in terms of what you feel when driving. The car is heavier so you slide a bit more and the tyres are bigger, which changes visibility from the cockpit. The car is also stiffer, but it’s still a Formula 1 car that you have to drive on the limit and that feeling stays the same.”
Yuki Tsunoda also saw an improvement in his preparation – he said he was more focused than last year. So his rookie year had definitely made him more disciplined. He stated that the AT03 felt good:
“I am looking forward to the season and generally feel much more prepared than Bahrain a year ago. My overall fitness improved a lot from last year and now, just before the start of the season, I feel very different. Last year I didn’t expect anything and I wasn’t fully in control of all the situations. Now I know much better what I have to do to improve myself. I have a clear target and I am more relaxed. I am happy and my mentality is good and ready for the first race.”
Disillusionment in the team
But disillusionment with the car and the problems Tsunoda and Gasly faced came quickly. Not only were the weight problems of the AT03 a concern for the team, but the reliability problems of the Red Bull Powertrain were also severe at the start of the season.
Tsunoda could not start the race in Saudi Arabia due to a driveline issue. Bad luck seemed to follow AlphaTauri – in the first half of the season, Tsunoda and Gasly scored 27 points together; in the second half, only five.
Overall, the season was rather frustrating for Franz Tost’s team, with neither driver making it into the points regularly. But there were also successful moments.
In Bahrain, at the first race of the season, Tsunoda finished the race in P8 – he was the only one to finish with an RBPT engine in the car.
Gasly’s best finish of the 2022 season was in Azerbaijan. The track in Baku suited the AT03, and the Frenchman managed to finish as high as fifth. He stated at the time:
“It’s been pretty incredible for us today. Finishing in the top five is really good, especially considering how the start of our year has played out. We’ve not had that much luck so far, so it was important to get a clean weekend, which is what we’ve achieved here in Baku. We made no mistakes this weekend, we showed great pace in practice, then we had the best Quali of the year yesterday and today we finished in our highest position of the season to date.”
Tsunoda’s best performance was in the race in Imola. On the sprint weekend in AlphaTauri’s home country, he fought his way up to seventh place in the grand prix. His reaction:
“I’m super happy with today, especially to score points at our home track. There are a lot of people from the factory watching here in the grandstands today, every lap I could see the AlphaTauri flags being waved and it gave me a great boost, so it feels like a big thank you to everyone that works so hard in the team.”
Gasly finished 14th in the drivers’ standings with 23 points despite the difficulties. Tsunoda finished the season in 17th place with 12 points.
A functioning team off the track
Even though there were many problems on the track and the season was not as joyous as the 2021 season, Gasly and Tsunoda continued to work closely together. Especially marketing-wise, the driver duo was unbeatable, in that they could offer the fans great content.
pierre & daniel made their own style of sushi just for @yukitsunoda07 🍣 😅
make sure you check out the full video! 👉 https://t.co/o256VMklBr pic.twitter.com/AjTKoxMFzZ
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) October 11, 2022
Tsunoda and Gasly became fan favourites who could at least somewhat paper over the problems on track. For a long time, it looked like they would be retained in 2023. The general working atmosphere in the team remained optimistic.
But Sebastian Vettel’s retirement from F1 and Fernando Alonso’s move from Alpine to Aston Martin allowed Gasly to look for a team outside the Red Bull family. As a result, the team of Tsunoda and Gasly has been broken up. Gasly moves to Alpine in 2023 to fight for points with compatriot Esteban Ocon as his teammate.
A short view into the future…
The start of the season was more than bumpy for AlphaTauri. The development and the weight of the AT03 made it almost impossible for Gasly and Tsunoda to fight for points. Nevertheless, they could catch up and collect good points in the meantime, until the downfall came after the summer break.
The surprising drop from P6 to P9 in the team standings does not please the team from Faenza, of course. They are not happy with the result, but have to admit that the problems run deeper.
After the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Jody Eddington, AlphaTauri’s Technical Director, said:
“It’s been a long season and unfortunately, we have not been able to deliver the level of performance of the previous two years in 2022, but the entire team is totally focused on addressing this for next year.”
Nyck de Vries, a Formula 1 rookie, will join the team next season. However, it must not be forgotten that he is the Formula E champion of the 2019/2020 season. Replacing the ill Alex Albon at Monza this year, he scored two points in his debut race for Williams.
The question is: who will lead the team? Yuki Tsunoda, who is in his third season with AlphaTauri, or Nyck de Vries as a rookie but experienced Formula E world champion?
Feature Image Credit: Rudy Carezzevoli via Getty Images