AlphaTauri: can Red Bull's other F1 team crack the top 5 in 2021?

F1

Alpha Tauri had a fast car last season, but it ultimately finished 7th. Can they break into the top 5 in 2021?

AlphaTauri AT02 livery

AlphaTauri

The new Scuderia AlphaTauri 2021 F1 car, the AT02, breaks cover tomorrow. Read our preview below on the team’s new car, drivers and targets for for 2021.

 

Last season Scuderia AlphaTauri took its first win in over a decade, as Pierre Gasly claimed a surprise win at Monza where Sebastian Vettel took the team’s first victory 12 years earlier, during its previous guise as Toro Rosso.

However, a close midfield battle, meant that the first season under the AlphaTauri name ended only in seventh place. Gasly now says a top five finish in the Constructors’ Championship “should be the goal” for 2021.

What was formerly known as the Red Bull ‘junior’ team has now moved closer to its sister marque, sharing the same wind tunnel and certain 2020 car parts. The team also has the addition of highly-rated Honda hot-shot Yuki Tsunoda to partner Gasly. So can the Italy-based squad really break into the top five of the championship this year?

 

What will the 2021 AlphaTauri F1 car look like?

Despite this year’s machines being developments of last season’s, with largely static rules aside from a 10 per cent reduction in downforce, AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost has said their car this year “will be very different from 2020.”

“[There will be] carry-overs for 2021 yes, but you don’t know the engineers!” he told F1.com. “They are always coming up with something new and I have already on my table many, many new upgrades.

“We have the same monocoque, the same gearbox, hydraulics, but parts of the suspension are different, the complete aerodynamic is different and at the end it’s a new car. Next year’s car will be very different.”

Despite continuing design aspects of last year’s AlphaTauri, its new car may end up looking somewhat similar to last year’s Red Bull.

Current rules mean the Faenza squad is allowed to use non-listed parts from Red Bull’s 2020 car for its own this year, which could serve as upgrades for the AT team. It also means it won’t have to use one of two ‘development tokens’ teams are permitted for certain new parts throughout the year.

 

What engine will AlphaTauri use in 2021?

Honda will supply engines to AlphaTauri in 2021.

This is the last year for the Japanese marque in F1, before they hand over the engine to Red Bull, who will continue to use it up until new engine regulations come into force in 2025.

Honda F1’s Technical Director, Toyoharu Tanabe, detailed how it’ll keep pushing development right up until it exits the championship.

“It is difficult be specific about which parts have seen the most work,” he said. “But in order to improve power and reliability, we have made modifications to the ICE, turbine and ERS. This is our third year with Scuderia AlphaTauri and in order to improve as a whole, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire PU.”

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Aerodynamics are not included in the token system, but the front nose and wing are due to the fact they are part of the crash structure. AT has decided therefore to use its tokens to upgrade the front end of the car.

McLaren was the first team to launch a 2021 car on Monday, the MCL35M. The team’s Technical Director James Key highlighted how much the downforce-reducing 2021 rule changes have prompted new design opportunities, saying “You’ll see a huge amount of development at the rear.”

This could well be the reason for AT’s technical direction. Chief designer Jody Egginton says it wants to stick with what it knows at the back of the car, as understanding that is critical in the development race. Taking on too many Red Bull parts in that area would take time to understand, disrupt other areas of the car and require the team to spend tokens where it doesn’t want to.

“We’re going to carry-over the [2020] rear end,” he said.

“We thought about it long and hard. It’s very nice when you can go to the sweet shop and pick what you want, but the areas we want to develop are at the other end of the car.

“We are not uncomfortable with the basic package, so we are very focused on the areas we are going to develop.”

“We’ve done our due diligence and decided where we want to spend our resource. You can do a lot of work packaging a new rear end or you can put that resource onto the front of the car and do something there next.

“A wholesale upgrade is not always the right thing to do. You go to the sweet shop but you have to integrate all that to your package.”

 

Who are AlphaTauri’s 2021 drivers?

AlphaTauri

Can Tsunoda and Gasly take AlphaTauri to even greater heights in 2021?

AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly has been retained for 2021, and will be partnered by Yuki Tsunoda.

After enduring a miserable 2019 at Red Bull, during which he was demoted back to Toro Rosso, Gasly looked like a racer reborn in 2020.

He came into the season following a runner-up podium at the final race of 2019 in Brazil and then claimed an unlikely win at Monza last year after a safety car reshuffle and penalty for Lewis Hamilton left Gasly at the front of the pack.

His team-mate for next year will be young Japanese driver Tsunoda, who replaces the outgoing Daniil Kvyat.

There’s great excitement in both the Red Bull and Honda camps surrounding the F2 race- winner, with Red Bull driver development guru Dr Helmut Marko – not one to hand out compliments lightly – giving the 20-year-old high praise:

“He is characterised by an unbelievable basic speed and a very quick perception and learning phase,” he said.

“If you saw the last races, how he held back at the beginning of the races until the halfway stage, he saved his tyres and then attacked. That was a great mix between aggressiveness and driving with your head.”

 

AlphaTauri to use Red Bull wind tunnel in 2021

Previously AlphaTauri has been treated as a ‘B team’ to Red Bull, but a move has been made at management level to bring the two teams closer together in their operations and therefore performance, so they’re now seen as sister marques instead.

One tangible change that will make this a reality is the decision for AlphaTauri to now start using the Red Bull wind tunnel in Bedford as opposed to its own in Faenza. As well as potentially bringing the two closer together in lap times, it’ll help both to meet the new budget cap regulations.

AlphaTauri was the only remaining team on the grid to be using a 50 per cent wind tunnel. As Tost emphasised, switching to the Red Bull facility represents a significant upgrade.

“It’s a big advantage to change to the 60 per cent wind tunnel, because up to now we’ve always had to work with the 50 per cent,” he said in an interview with Motorsport.com.

“The 60 per cent is of course more accurate and provides us with hopefully more valid data.”

Will AlphaTauri/Red Bull use this alignment as a way to get around the reduced amount of wind tunnel usage teams are allowed this year? The higher your championship position, the less tunnel time permitted. Red Bull may have spotted a way to get around this by pooling resources.

 

Where will Alpha Tauri finish in 2021?

After finishing seventh in the Constructors Championship last season, Red Bull will surely be looking for Alpha Tauri to move into the top five this year. Pierre Gasly certainly think so.

“We were in the top five cars a few times in 2020. That should be the goal,” the Frenchman told Auto Motor und Sport.

“We are not far from that. It was the team’s most successful year. Still, we were only seventh.

“We have to give more, make it even better. We are not far from the boys in front of us. Hopefully we will end up among the top five in the Constructors’ Championship in 2021.”

With a closer technical relationship between the two teams and a pair of strong drivers,  an improvement on last year’s final standings will be hoped for by all parties at the very least.