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Formula 1

‘Perfect’ GP no anomaly for F1 2021’s most underrated package

by Edd Straw
5 min read

Pierre Gasly described his fourth place from fifth on the grid in the Mexican Grand Prix as “the perfect weekend”.

But while it was an outstanding performance by both team and driver it’s in keeping with what has been a 2021 Formula 1 strong season for AlphaTauri.

Nov 08 : Mexican Grand Prix review

It was Gasly’s third top-four finish of the season, the others being his third place in Azerbaijan and fourth in the Netherlands.

Although he was briefly behind fast-starting Daniel Ricciardo at the start, he got back ahead when the McLaren driver hit Valtteri Bottas and even challenged Sergio Perez for third on the run to Turn 4.

Gasly then settled into fourth place, inching away from Charles Leclerc behind at just over a tenth of a second per lap prior to their pitstops. He eventually finished 17 seconds clear of Leclerc.

F1 Grand Prix Of Mexico

“It was the perfect weekend, I don’t think it could have been better than that,” said Gasly.

“We clearly did a good job in qualifying and then P4 behind Red Bull and Lewis [Hamilton] is basically a small win for us.

“I’m extremely pleased. A lot of points for the championship as well and the pace was just good from the first lap to the end.

“I had everything under control and the Ferraris were never able to attack me.

“It was a bit lonely, but it was still enjoyable to see the pace.”

Gasly’s fourth place means AlphaTauri closes to just two points behind Alpine in the battle for fifth in the constructors’ championship.

Alpine took control of that position thanks to Esteban Ocon’s victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, which along with team-mate Fernando Alonso’s fourth place gave it 37 points – 35% of its total for the season.

AlphaTauri has without question been the fifth-fastest team over the season, in the group with McLaren and Ferrari that’s covered by just over a tenth of a percent in our ‘supertimes’ method that tracks each car’s fastest lap of a GP weekend and converts it into a percentage difference to the benchmark time.


1 Mercedes 100.147
2 Red Bull 100.208
3 Ferrari 100.823
4 McLaren 100.863
5 AlphaTauri 100.930
6 Alpine 101.458
7 Aston Martin 101.614
8 Alfa Romeo 101.927
9 Williams 102.052
10 Haas 103.344

But its points tally is not as big as it should be. While Gasly has been in the top six in qualifying in 13 out of 18 races this year, that has only translated into seven top-six finishers.

There have been occasional mishaps – clipping the rear of Ricciardo early in the Bahrain Grand Prix (pictured below) and at the start of the Italian GP sprint race, contact with Charles Leclerc on the opening lap of the Styrian Grand Prix.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Bahrain Grand Prix Race Day Sakhir, Bahrain

There have also been occasional off weekends where the team has struggled for pace, such as Barcelona and Silverstone, as well as events where the pace wasn’t capitalised on – for example Sochi, where Gasly was frustrated not to be given fresh intermediates during Q2 and was eliminated on a weekend when AlphaTauri was very competitive.

Gasly has also operated as a one-car team at times given team-mate Yuki Tsunoda’s struggles. However, recently the 21-year-old rookie has strung together three consecutive Q3 appearances and he has contributed 20 points to AlphaTauri’s cause, just under a quarter of Gasly’s tally of 86.

AlphaTauri’s Mexico performance was certainly impressive, but it’s not the first time it’s led the way in the pack chasing Red Bull and Mercedes. At the Dutch GP, Gasly was the leading driver from outside of the big two teams in both qualifying and the race, while in Hungary he also qualified as best-of-the-rest.

In fact, for much of the season AlphaTauri has been able to mix it with McLaren and Ferrari even if it hasn’t been able to keep pace in the constructors’ championship.

In Mexico, Gasly was 0.766% off the outright pace judged by fastest single lap of the weekend, which is only its eighth-best of the season. But crucially, it was clear of the Ferraris.

“It was quite impressive, the pace of Pierre,” said Ferrari driver Leclerc after the Mexican Grand Prix. “We did not expect that pace, so it was a surprise.

“We tried to stop early to put some pressure on Pierre and for him to box early so Carlos [Sainz] could go long and put pressure on at the end of the race, which is exactly what we did.

“But it was just not enough.”

F1 Grand Prix Of Mexico

Sainz felt Ferrari was able to be faster than Gasly, although he cited his pace during the second stint when he had tyres that were 11 laps younger. The bottom line is that AlphaTauri was simply quicker.

That’s why we should not be surprised by this level of performance, especially given how well Gasly has driven since the shock of his demotion from the Red Bull team in the middle of 2019.

It’s also important to note that the pace of the car isn’t simply because it has a Red Bull ‘clone’. While it does use a significant number of parts from Red Bull, the car has its own aerodynamic philosophy. What’s more, the team also decided against taking the ‘free’ upgrade to the rear end permitted for this year in order to better suit its aero direction.

F1 Grand Prix Of Mexico Qualifying

The result is a quick, consistent car that responded well to Gasly’s decisive inputs during qualifying and continues to give him the confidence to excel.

Mexico was a peak for AlphaTauri, but far from the only one this season.

It’s likely that Ferrari underachieving a little contributed to its dominance in the battle for best of the rest, but Mexico should be seen as what AlphaTauri has sporadically been capable of on merit during what has been a strong season, even if the race results haven’t always been what they should be.

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