AlphaTauri headed into Formula 1’s eighth August break in the constructors’ championship after a five-race pointless streak.
But despite his team only having the eighth fastest car on average and managing just six points in 13 races – its worst run since 2018 – lead driver Pierre Gasly is optimistic.
AlphaTauri introduced a major aero upgrade package two races before the break at Paul Ricard. Although he hasn’t had better results and the team are apparently struggling to keep up with the pace of development of their midfield rivals, Gasly is confident he is delivering better performances.
The question is whether AlphaTauri can improve their understanding of the package, which showed promising signs on the first day of testing in France but proved inconsistent, and unleash more pace after the break.
Asked by The Race if he expected a stronger second half given the promising signs the upgrade has shown, Gasly replied with an emphatic “100%”.
The lack of results in the first two races with the upgrade did not shake his belief that it can be a game-changer.
“We knew from the start of the season that this year is a development race; new regulations, new cars, so people will develop,” Gasly continued.
“It doesn’t matter how you start, what matters is having an upward curve throughout the year.
“We started in a decent place but were slowed down by the issues we were having with porpoising etc.
” But this [the upgrade] clearly brings performance and when you see how tight the midfield is, it’s definitely going to put us back in this fight.
“We just have to make sure we maximize the full potential for the rest of the year.”
The AlphaTauri’s mechanical package, which includes the 2022-spec Red Bull rear suspension, produces good grip in slow corners and remained unchanged when the upgrade was introduced. The hope was that the downforce gains would increase that good mechanical package and dramatically improve performance.
The car was most competitive on street circuits – Miami, Monaco and Baku. The fact that he managed just one point in those three races reflects the team’s bad luck.
In Miami, Gasly pulled out a brilliant qualifying lap from the bag, a six-tenths of a second faster than anything he had produced, to take seventh place on the grid. He was ninth when Fernando Alonso crashed into him. The incident, which earned Alonso a five-second penalty, quickly led to Gasly’s retirement, while teammate Yuki Tsunoda struggled with the tires and finished 13th.
Gasly had the pace to be on the third row in Monaco but couldn’t reach the line in time to start a lap after the red flag caused by Tsunoda in Q1. He rode a strong race from 17th on the grid to 11th, while Tsunoda showed signs of good pace but finished 17th.
Even in Azerbaijan, where Gasly finished superbly fifth, a DRS issue forced Tsunoda from sixth and robbed AlphaTauri of more points. A comeback of just 10 points over those three weekends is well short of what AlphaTauri should have achieved.
From Azerbaijan, AlphaTauri did not score a point. Only once in the last five races has one of his cars reached Q3, with Tsunoda qualifying eighth at Paul Ricard but his race was ruined by being hit by Esteban Ocon’s Alpine on the first lap.
At other circuits there were strong results, with Gasly taking eighth in Saudi Arabia and ninth in Australia. Tsunoda finished eighth in Bahrain, seventh in Imola and 10th in Spain, but since Baku the team have drawn.
After a promising start on Friday in France on the first day of the major aero upgrade package, Gasly battled understeer – always time-consuming for him – in qualifying and finished 12th in the race. Tsunoda, who opted for a slightly different set-up, at least showed promise in qualifying before his first-lap disaster caused by Ocon.
In Hungary, the team thought they had the pace for Q2, although the fact that both drivers opted for three rounds in Q1 showed how tight it was. Gasly set a reasonably good lap time for Q2 but was scrapped for going over the track limits at Turn 5, while Tsunoda also struggled and crashed in Q1.
Gasly rode a strong race to 12th with Tsunoda finishing 19th after struggling for grip, leading technical director Jody Egginton to say the team would ‘investigate’ the difficulties as nothing initially seemed askew with the car.
Gasly described his Hungarian GP as “positive” with the team learning “a lot of interesting things” about the improved car. The hope is that this will translate into ever-stronger form in the second half of the season – potentially enough to challenge Haas for seventh in the championship (just seven points) and perhaps even close in on Alfa Romeo, sixth, who is 24 points ahead. from AlphaTauri at the moment but have drawn the last four races.
France’s upgrade is effective enough now that the team has two weekends worth of data to figure it out and turn those hopes into reality. The upgrade focused on performance on the ground, which makes sense given that’s where significant downforce is generated and theoretically improves the car’s grip in a wide range of conditions.
“The update mainly concerns the ground,” said vehicle performance manager Guillaume Dezoteux in France.
“[It] starts from the geometry of the intake fence, the geometry of the front edge and the geometry of the diffuser and the bodywork around it. The floor structure under the car is completely different and the aim is to produce downforce in most of the attitudes the car takes around the lap.
“In that regard, this update meets expectations, so it’s an overall load gain in most conditions: low speed, medium speed corners, high body roll, low body roll.”
Clearly we haven’t seen the best of the AlphaTauri package yet, and with the team planning to bring more updates later in the season, there should be more performance to come. But it’s been a tough campaign for a team that has been steadily improving in recent years.
However, 2022 with the new regulations was always going to be a tough challenge as they are still Red Bull’s second team. Having been closely matched with Ferrari and McLaren last year judging by overall performance, it was perhaps inevitable that the team would fall back a bit this year.
But Gasly, who has been with the team since late 2017 – barring half a season with Red Bull in the first half of 2019 – remains confident that AlphaTauri has the personnel and facilities to perform at a high level.
He also hinted at cost cap constraints having potentially made things more difficult for the team this year, but hopes the August break will allow him to step back and set the right direction for the second half of the season. the year.
Asked by The Race if AlphaTauri’s struggle in 2022 reflects its weakness compared to the biggest teams in F1, Gasly replied: “Yes, compared to the big teams like Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.
“We know what they’ve built over the last 10 years: facilities, people, resources, they’re more efficient.
“But at the same time, we have very, very good people and also the right tools to be competitive.
“I don’t fully have the answer as to why we seem to be struggling more than other teams in midfield because I don’t think there is anything missing in the core of the team.
“So that’s why I think we have to take a little step back and look at the bigger picture, the bigger picture, what we’re doing aerodynamically, the direction we’ve taken, how we decided to use the budget cap because I know since the beginning of the year, we are already quite on the limit.
“Is this the main reason? I don’t know exactly, but we’ll keep pushing and hopefully find some other bigger development pieces over the next few weeks.
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