AlphaTauri started the season full of hope as they launched their 2023 campaign with a stylish launch in New York. But they have struggled to make an impact and find themselves bottom of the constructors’ championship – and have changed their driver line-up already with Daniel Ricciardo drafted in to replace Nyck de Vries after just 10 races. Following is their semi-annual report…
The best finish
Yuki Tsunoda – 10th in Australia, Azerbaijan and Belgium
It’s been a waste to get points this year for AlphaTauri, the AT04’s lack of overall vertical leaving it stuck in the back of the mid lane.
However, there were points in the season where they put the car in a good window or an opportunity presented itself – and it was Yuki Tsunoda who took advantage of it.
READ MORE: Tsunoda says his car was ‘flying’ at Spa as AlphaTauri returns to points
The Japanese driver came into the campaign under pressure to prove he deserved to remain in the Red Bull family at the end of the season and has become a driver the team can rely on to get the job done.
He has earned all of the team’s points with three 10th place finishes and has been on the bubble on three other occasions crossing the line 11th.
Yuki Tsunoda has won all AlphaTauri points this season
– Tsunoda 8 – 2 De Vries
– Tsunoda 1 – 1 Ricciardo
Tsunoda had the measure of Nyck de Vries in qualifying, beating the Dutchman 8-2 in the head-to-head at one round before his team-mate was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
He was locked in a 1-1 tie with Ricciardo, the Japanese driver just 0.013s slower in Hungary and then comfortably in Belgium, in a period of rain that produced a larger than normal time gap.
READ MORE: Ricciardo credits former Red Bull race engineer with helping him rediscover his best form
– Tsunoda 7-2 De Vries
– Tsunoda 1-1 Ricciardo
Tsunoda stepped up his game in a huge way on Sunday afternoons in 2023 and this allowed AlphaTauri to avoid the ignominy of going into the summer break with nothing to show for his efforts in terms of points.
Tsunoda has been convincingly stronger than De Vries in race grooming – and is on par with Ricciardo in a small sample of two races together so far. This will be one of the most exciting team battles as both fight to prove that they deserve to stay in the team next season.
Daniel Ricciardo was chosen to replace Nyck de Vries after just 10 races
The best moment
Tsunoda’s 10th place last time out at Spa was significant on several levels. It ended a run of seven Grands Prix without a point, gave some stability to being the first points scorer since the De Vries drama continued and boosted Tsunoda’s confidence as he aims to beat Ricciardo’s new more experienced team-mate.
The Japanese driver drove a calm and classy race in the changing conditions, in a car that has a downforce deficit (which is even more useful in slippery conditions) than most of its rivals.
BUXTON: Could Ricciardo’s racing return be the first step back to a Red Bull seat?
The worst moment
AlphaTauri knew that the Austrian Grand Prix, one of their home races, would be difficult due to the lack of upgrades they brought to the car, but they probably didn’t think it would be as painful as it was.
Tsunoda’s race was over at Turn 1 when he dived to the inside, hit the curb and clipped Esteban Ocon, breaking his front wing. He then skated into the gravel at Turn 4, picking up suspected floor damage that greatly affected handling.
Both he and De Vries then received time penalties for exceeding track limits and this left them 19th and 17th respectively. A disappointing weekend all around.
It was an unhappy outing in Austria for AlphaTauri with P19 and P17 finishes
The small Italian team has proven that if they can start the weekend on the right foot in the first practice and quickly find a sweet spot in their set-up, especially on tracks where the lack of downforce doesn’t hurt them so much, they can scrape to the top 10.
Doing so on a more consistent basis in the second half of the season will be the aim, although they will know that even with Ricciardo up to speed, and if Tsunoda continues his sparkling run, improving to P10 in the constructors’ championship, it will be a big question, in what is Franz Tost’s last season as Team Principal.
Daniel Ricciardo returns to F1 with AlphaTauri
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