Alpha Tauri debutant Nyck de Vries now has first hand experience of what it entails to start a Formula One season with a full time contract. However, his ‘little bull’ team may not be the force they once were and the season ahead of the young Dutch driver already looks long and littered with pitfalls.
During the second practice session the team released de Vries from his pit box into the path of the Lando Norris.
De Vries unsafe realease
The McLaren driver was forced to slam on the brakes and locked up in his attempt to avoid contact. Norris then called ‘an unsafe release’ in over the pit radio.
The FIA post session notifications revealed the stewards did indeed investigate the incident but somehow reached a verdict that no further action was required.
By the end of the second practice session the Alpha Tauri cars were wedged between the Williams pair in P18 and P19 some 1.6 seconds slower than Fernando Alonso’s chart topping qualifying simulation lap time.
Alpha Tauri woeful performance
FP2 is the most representative of the practice sessions in Bahrain because it takes place in the cooler temperatures in the evening at a similar time when qualifying and the race take place.
Despite a woeful showing by the team De Vries was upbeat:
“It was the first time I participated in an FP2 session as a full-time Formula 1 driver. Overall, I am satisfied with the work and progress we made.
De Vries cites ‘outlier’ track
“The conditions from FP1 to FP2 were quite different, but we worked well together as a team. We found ourselves a little on the back foot, but I’m confident that if we stick together and continue improving on the areas we believe we need to find performance in, we can make a step forward.
“It’s hard to make big changes in one weekend, however, we are aware of our weaknesses compared to our competitors. This track may not suit the characteristics of our car, but it’s early days. After a couple of weekends, we’ll be able to have a clearer picture.”
And here we have another example of the ‘outlier’ track claim (read, ‘we can’t wait to leave here’) by a driver having had a pretty poor day in Bahrain.
Tsunoda needs to step up
Alpha Tauri’s lead driver Yuki Tsunoda who is now in his third F1 season admitted the team had suffered in Bahrain.
“Today was not the easiest day. The performance itself doesn’t look good compared to our competitors so far. Obviously, we don’t know what programmes they ran, but on our side, there are limitations that we have identified.
“There is still one more practice session tomorrow and I’m feeling optimistic. We’ve definitely made a step forward compared to last year, so I’m confident we can continue moving in the right direction.
Given this is his third year in Formula One its time Yuli Tsunoda stepped up and started delivering for his team. If he is barely better than de Vries this season, surely time will be called by Red Bull on his Honda inspired F1 career.
Tsunoda under threat before season begins
AT manager puzzled by performance
“It seems our long-run pace is better than our short-run one, which is maybe good for Bahrain, but there is performance missing. We’ll shift our focus now to qualifying, to improve as much as possible for tomorrow.”
When a driver or team has had a tricky day 1 at a Formula One weekend, the standard line they offer to the media is to suggest or even hope that the long run pace will in fact see them do better come race day.
Jonathan Eddolls, AlphaTauri’s head of trackside engineering, was candid:
“We came into the race weekend with the benefit of having gathered data from last week’s three-day test, so the engineers have been very busy analysing and pulling this together, finding a good set-up for this week.
“The first session of the day is significantly hotter than the second session, and this tends to exaggerate any balance issues, so during FP1, we faced a bit of everything.
Drivers couldn’t find a balance
“We made several changes for FP2 which helped, and so too did the lower track temperature.
“The drivers still didn’t have the perfect balance, but it wasn’t too far away from the target.
“That said, the lap times were not competitive, so we have a significant amount of work ahead of us to understand why we seem to have taken a step back compared to the test.”
P9 is all AT can hope for
Alpha Tauri were ranked by a number of F1 observers alongside Williams in the bottom two teams on the grid following the recent 3 day test in Bahrain.
Hence it should be no surprise to Eddolls that his team were again at the bottom of the pile with Williams following the first day of the Bahrain GP weekend.
The Red Bull sister team have been rumoured over the past few days to be up for sale. The Red Bull shareholders may well decide to take $600m for the underperforming F1 outfit and invest the money in subsidising junior driver salaries placed at other teams if Alpha Tauri cannot turn around their performance.