2022 Performance Review: Alpha Tauri
Written by Dan Jones, Edited by Simran Kanthi
AlphaTauri's ascendancy through the constructors' standings in recent F1 Championships was an encouraging start to the 2020s for the Italian outfit who chose to retain their 2021 line-up with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda. Gasly has proved himself a very capable driver since his Red Bull difficulties, and Tsunoda entered a second year in the sport after an underwhelming first, although it did show flashes of brilliance which he would have hoped to continue in 2022. And with the 2022 regulations a new start for many teams on a clean sheet of paper, AlphaTauri would have hoped to continue to solidify their midfield status in the sport. The season started encouragingly for the team as they achieved four top 9 finishes in the opening four races. After Gasly's season-best finish of 5th in Azerbaijan, the Red Bull sister team would only pick up eight more points across the entire season, as they were out-developed by key competitors in Aston Martin and never quite matched the pace of Haas or Alfa Romeo. AlphaTauri would slump to 9th in the standings, their worst since 2018, a far cry from the podium they had achieved in the previous three seasons. This wasn't helped by an overweight car and the unreliable Red Bull Powertrains that plagued both teams at the beginning of the season, and after a seeming abandonment of development, the only team they would outscore after the summer break would be Williams. A poor season for both team and drivers and a disappointing way for Gasly to end a successful tenure with the team as he heads off to Alpine in 2023. After Red Bull failed to grant Colton Herta the necessary super licence, AlphaTauri opted for the 2021 Formula E Champion Nyck de Vries to partner with Tsunoda in 2023. But with several F2 drivers knocking on the door, and as well as reserve driver Liam Lawson likely to be competitive in Japan, 2023 will be a testing year for the drivers of AlphaTauri.
Pierre Gasly's 2021 season impressed the whole paddock, however, his 2022 would not live up to the same billing. Although he was semi-competitive at the opening rounds of the season, picking up 8th in Saudi Arabia and 9th in Australia, as well as regular Q3 appearances, the AT03's performance drop-off, would reflect on Gasly apart from the race in Baku where he would star on the streets he has been so successful on, as he split the Mercedes and finished an excellent 5th at the chequered flag. However, until the season's end, Gasly's personal performances would further worsen, only picking up points on three more occasions, in Belgium, Italy, and Singapore, as the Frenchman became dangerously close to a race ban after accruing penalty points in Spain, Japan, USA, and Mexico with a potential ban still looming over him as he comes into 2023. Gasly's final season with AlphaTauri will be deemed underwhelming but a 2023 seat with Alpine gives him a fresh start, as he leaves the Red Bull programme for the first time in his career.
Best Race: Azerbaijan - Claimed an excellent P5 on merit, which could have very well been a P4 after a superb qualifying, a very impressive day in his underwhelming season.
Yuki Tsunoda's disappointing rookie year had shown flashes of brilliance, in particular, his rookie outing in Bahrain and a P4 in the season finale in Abu Dhabi. With a year's experience under his belt, things looked promising for Tsunoda but the uncompetitive AT03 would not reflect well on his improved performances. Similarly to Gasly, he started the season impressively, with a P8 in Bahrain and P7 in Imola, however, he would only pick up two more 10th-place finishes until the season's end. On paper, Tsunoda's season looks disappointing, but relative to Gasly, Tsunoda was much more on it. Tsunoda out-qualified Gasly on a singular occasion in 2021, but improved to nine in 2022, reaching Q3 on five occasions. He was unfortunate at times, his bizarre DRS failure in Baku stopped his run to a P6 finish and not even starting in Saudi Arabia, but similarly, to his teammate, was fond of the stewards, receiving constant reprimands and fines. Overall, an improved season, but still nothing to shout about. His performances must improve as he becomes team leader in 2023 to Nyck de Vries.
Best Race: Azerbaijan - Similar to his teammate, Tsunoda impressed on the streets of Baku, although his DRS failure denied him a best finish of the season through no fault of his own.
Coming off the back of two very strong seasons with the rebranded AlphaTauri team, managing to score a podium and a win in that timeframe, Pierre Gasly more than salvaged his reputation after he was dropped by Red Bull in the middle of the 2019 season. It looked like the Frenchman would continue his upward trajectory in 2022, running in the points in the first three races and would've likely gone on to score in all of them, apart from an engine failure in Bahrain. Eighth and ninth in the next two Grands Prix in Saudi Arabia and Australia were solid results. As it turned out, they were among a few anomalies in Gasly's season as he spent most of it running outside the top 10 as well as keeping the stewards busy, finishing the year with ten penalty points, only two away from a race ban. Further regular points finishes in Belgium, Italy, Singapore, and Baku flattered what was otherwise a pretty poor season, both thanks to the team's drop in performance and Gasly's own mistakes. With a promising deal with Alpine in 2023 that could create fireworks, the Frenchman will be quick to forget 2022 in a hurry.
Best race: Baku - Kept well out of trouble and calmly drove to fifth place in a race of attrition.
Following a difficult 2021 campaign, Yuki Tsunoda looked immediately improved in 2022, a fact proven in the season opener in Bahrain, where he was the only Honda-powered car to finish, in P8. Only three further point finishes in Australia, Spain and Austin don't show the full and somewhat improved picture of Tsunoda's troubled year. With a DNS in Saudi Arabia following problems in Qualifying, his DRS not closing in Baku which dropped him from sixth to out of the points, and a collision with Daniel Ricciardo while he was running well in Mexico are some of the instances that highlight how unlucky the man from Japan was this year. Even after getting closer to his teammate and often outshining him on race day, he was far from perfect, as shown by the number of warnings he received, similar to his good friend Pierre Gasly whom he collided with in Britain. Despite an overall improvement, Tsunoda will have to up his game if he's to put up a fight against his soon-to-be teammate, the very talented Nyck de Vries.
Best race: Australia - It might be a bit forgettable but that indicates the good job Tsunoda did to secure a season-best result at Albert Park, after failing to make it into Q3.
Coming off a strong 2021 season, one that saw Pierre Gasly finish ninth in the standings and score 110 points, expectations were high for the Frenchman in 2022. Having outperformed the machinery at his disposal, one would have expected the AlphaTauri to do the same in 2022. While he didn't have as quick a car as he'd expected, 2022 could be considered one of Gasly's tougher seasons in F1. While he started the season with points finishes, an eighth in Saudi Arabia, and a ninth in Australia, points were much harder to follow for the French driver.
He began the second half of the season strongly, with points in Belgium, Italy, and Singapore, but once again fell away towards the late stages of the season. In addition, Gasly was incident prone, so much so to the point that he accumulated ten penalty points, and sits only two away from a race ban. The Frenchman's final season at AlphaTauri was arguably not what he had expected, and Gasly will be looking for a fresh start at Alpine in 2023, away from the Red Bull environment.
Rating - 5.5/10
Best race - His performance at Azerbaijan was arguably the highlight of his tough season. Splitting the Mercedes' drivers in qualifying, Gasly went on to finish a strong fifth on Sunday, taking what would be his best result of the season.
While Tsunoda's first season in F1 saw flashes of brilliance sprinkled with inconsistency and incidents, most notably his P4 at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, his expectations into 2022 would be to get closer to his experienced teammate Gasly and work on his consistency. After all, he was entering his second season with the team and would look to draw on the previous year's learnings to improve.
Unfortunately, this would prove to be a tough sophomore season for the youngster from Japan. Tsunoda started the year strong, an eighth at the opening race in Bahrain. After an engine issue prevented him from starting the race at Saudi Arabia, it would be two rounds till his next points would come, following a strong drive to finish seventh at Imola. A further point followed at the Spanish Grand Prix, before a barren run of 12 races without a point, one that ended following a tenth-place finish at Austin. While Tsunoda was unlucky to miss out on points at Baku, following a DRS issue, a lap one incident with Esteban Ocon at France, and reliability issues at Zandvoort, he was no stranger to incidents, crashing into his teammate at Silverstone, ruining both their races. He had race-ending incidents in Canada, Singapore, and Mexico, and received his fair share of warnings and reprimands too, like his teammate. Tsunoda will have to step up his game in 2023 against the backdrop of the incoming Nyck de Vries, should he want to please the Red Bull bosses to keep him on for the future.
Driver Rating - 5.5/10
Best Race - Tsunoda's drive to seventh at Imola was one of the strongest of his stint in the sport. Qualifying only 16th in the wet conditions, the Japanese driver made his way up to 12th in the sprint race. And on race day, he put in a string of overtakes, keeping his AT03 on track in changing conditions, to finish a strong seventh at the chequered flag.