Thursday, February 11, 2021

1 Racing Mind’s Formula 1 Season Ending Team Report Card: Scuderia AlphaTauri

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/ LAT Image/ Pirelli

Team Grade: B+

Overall Season: 

A team known under the Toro Rosso name from 2006 to 2019, Scuderia AlphaTauri made it clear that their rebranding is more than just a superficial change limited to a team name and colours. Under the same ownership as Austria-based Red Bull Racing but having a home base in Italy, AlphaTauri made it clear the constructor will no longer operate as a junior team used mainly to develop drivers. 

The 2020 Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Red Bull Racing influence remained strong, however, with a driver lineup consisting of two pilots that had previously competed under Christian Horner-led squad. Russian driver Daniil Kvyat and Frenchman Pierre Gasly have both shown to be promising Formula 1 talents but were dropped by Red Bull Racing in rather demoralizing manners. 

As the season got underway, Gasly seemed to get the most out of the team’s AT01 race car. Receiving the same Honda power units as what is used to propel the Red Bull Racing cars, AlphaTauri’s AT01 was gifted with ample performance towards the rear portion of the vehicle. Both AlphaTauri drivers scored points in the first two rounds of the 2020 Formula 1 season on the Red Bull Ring in Austria falling in line with the expectations many observers had for the team. Triumph later at the season with Pierre Gasly’s victory at the Italian Grand Prix was an unexpected surprise in the Formula 1 world but also showed how the organization can capitalize when the situation allows.

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

Scuderia AlphaTauri definitely made a powerful statement in the sport in their inaugural season. Capturing points in all but two grand prix events in 2020 would have been a reasonable achievement for the team to have expected. However, AlphaTauri over-achieved at the year’s eighth round at the historic Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. 

Starting in 10th place on the grid for the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, the #10 AlphaTauri AT01 race car piloted by Pierre Gasly advanced through the field early. In a race that featured a safety car period, red flag stoppage and a second standing start, Gasly drove a near flawless grand prix as he would outshine all competition to win the Italian Grand Prix. The victory for AlphaTauri occurred on the same track where team won the 2008 event under the name Scuderia Toro Rosso. 

Although Scuderia AlphaTauri did not return to the podium in the remainder of the season, Daniil Kvyat scored fourth for the team at Imola while Gasly best finish after his Monza win was fifth in Portugal.  

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

Statistics would show that the Turkish Grand Prix was the team’s most disappointing event with both cars qualifying in the lowest five positions and failing to score points in the Sunday main feature being only the second time in the 2020 season Scuderia AlphaTauri did not have a car finish in the top 10. However, the wet race weekend proved drastically challenging for the entire field.

Team's Drivers 

#10 Pierre Gasly: A-

Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Co Inc

Overall Season: 

By the middle point of 2019, Pierre Gasly was possibly at the lowest point in his short Formula 1 career. Receiving the call-up from Scuderia Toro Rosso to Red Bull Racing, the Frenchman was under pressure to at least maintain a close pace with the team’s top driver Max Verstappen. Gasly sadly fell short of Red Bull Racing’s expectations resulting in him being sent back to Toro Rosso in the middle of the 2019 season. For the remainder of year, Pierre Gasly worked to rebuild his confidence in the sport. A second-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix did a lot to lift the spirits of the driver and secured a position with the newly rebranded team for 2020.

With the start of the 2020 Formula 1 season, the popular French driver continued to showcase his skills. Gasly finished seventh in the opening round in Austria but placed out of the top 10 in the Styrian Grand Prix and suffered a gearbox failure at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Initially appearing to be another season as a mid-marker, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza was a breakout moment. With the help of some extreme circumstances in the September race at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Pierre Gasly added himself to the exclusive fraternity of Formula 1 race winners. 

Through the remainder of the 2020 Formula 1 after his great victory, Gasly ran respectfully highlighted by the collection a fifth place finish at the Portuguese Grand Prix and a pair of sixth place results. 

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

Pierre Gasly’s 2020 season will be defined by the Italian Grand Prix win. Though his path to the upset victory was aided by the struggle of typical Formula 1 front runners, Gasly still drove a magnificent race that involved fending off a determined McLaren race car wheeled by Carlos Sainz Jr. in the event’s closing laps. The victory by Pierre Gasly came shortly past the one-year anniversary for when is rejoined the team and functioned as a popular moment in the season as the elated Frenchman took to the podium. The French driver was the first by a competitor to win a Formula 1 race since 1996 when Olivier Panis drove his Ligier to win the Monaco Grand Prix. 

Although the win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix was unexpected, many Formula 1 observers would have correctly guessed that Pierre Gasly would have been on a mission to prove himself still recovering from his forced departure from Red Bull Racing in the middle of 2019. With Scuderia AlphaTauri, Gasly showed some brilliant speed in qualifying as well as over the course of races. The Frenchman’s was able to break into the Q3 session in 11 of the 17 grand prix events posting a season-best effort of fourth at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. For the Sunday main events, Gasly grabbed a top 10 result in 10 of the 17 rounds.

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

Suffering three retirements during the 2020 season, Pierre Gasly’s latter two DNFs were perhaps the most disappointing. 

One week after his first grand prix win, Gasly and the rest of the Formula 1 tour converged on the Mugello circuit to run the Tuscan Grand Prix. Celebrating in Monza, Gasly’s second week racing in Italy was a deflating experience. After qualifying a season-worst 16th place, Pierre Gasly retired from the race on the opening lap after he was caught between Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean entering turn two.    

The second and final time Pierre Gasly’s #10 car failed to make it to the chequered flag was at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. In a race where he launched from a season-best grid position of fourth place, Gasly exited the event after just eight laps completed after his car suffered a coolant leak. 

#26 Daniil Kvyat: B

Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Co Inc

Overall Season: 

First competing in Formula 1 during the 2014 season at the age of 19, Russian driver Daniil Kvyat spent much of his career in the open wheel series part of Scuderia Toro Rosso. With the name change to Scuderia AlphaTauri, the team selected to keep Kvyat after a decent 2019 campaign that included a podium at the German Grand Prix. 

Paired with Pierre Gasly during the 17-race 2020 Formula 1 season, Daniil Kvyat would prove to be a reliable runner within the middle of the field. Kvyat scored points in the conclusion of seven events and failed to finish for just two grand prix races. His first DNF was a suspension failure in the Austrian Grand Prix while the second incident occurred on lap 12 at the British Grand Prix. Attributed to a failure of a rear tire, Kvyat’s #26 AlphaTauri AT01 was sent into a sudden spin in the Maggots section of the Silverstone Circuit and, despite travelling through a gravel trap, heavily impacted the track retaining barrier. Daniil Kvyat fortunately left his wrecked vehicle unhurt after the crash and returned the following week to take 10th place at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix also held at Silverstone.

A fixture on the competitive Formula 1 circuit for six seasons, 26-year-old Kvyat ends the 2020 season with an uncertain future in motorsports as AlphaTauri has replaced him with Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda for 2021.   

Achievements During 2020 Season:

For only the second time in his career, Daniil Kvyat scored a point-paying finish in his home grand prix in Russia crossing the line at the Sochi track in 8th place. The only other time he posted a top-10 run in the Russian Grand Prix was in 2015 when he drove for Red Bull Racing. 

The best race result of the year for Daniil Kvyat was a fourth place at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix held in Imola. The Russian driver narrowly missed out on a chance at a fourth career podium crossing the finish line 0.821 seconds behind the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. 

Kvyat finished the 2020 Formula 1 season in 14th place in the drivers’ standings with 32 points scoring just one fewer point than his former Red Bull Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

In the Bahrain Grand Prix, Daniil Kvyat’s #26 car was connected to two major accidents at the beginning of the race. 

During the rush of the first lap of the race coming out of turn 3, Romain Grosjean’s Haas F1 Team car aggressively swerved down into the path of Kvyat making minor contact. While the #26 AlphaTauri vehicle continued largely unaffected, the Haas VF-20 race car of Grosjean heavily impacted the track retaining wall. “On the opening lap, I was a bit angry at first with Romain for his move, but then I was just worried about him because I saw the flames and how bad the crash was - I was just hoping he was OK and fortunately it wasn’t as bad as it looked.” Kvyat stated in a team press release following the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Daniil Kvyat’s second incident occurred shortly after the second standing start of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Proceeding through turn eight at the 5.412-kilometer Bahrain International Circuit track, Kvyat’s AlphaTauri AT01 made an adventurous move low on the #18 Racing Point entry driven by Lance Stroll. The two race cars made contact with the point of impact sending Stroll to flip upside-down and out of the race. Kvyat was handed a 10-second time penalty ruled to be at-fault for the impact. 

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